The other day, the sound of chainsaws on my Portland street, and the accompanying scent of freshly cut tree limbs, instantly transported me to my family’s first home in Buxton. I only lived in the small ranch my parents built in the rural town until I was five, but the memories I have of stacking wood with my dad, mounding up pine needles to make “villages,” and watching our German shepherds in their giant pen while power tools whined in the distance are among my most lucid. I adored that property (pictured above) and remember staging a dramatic goodbye scene, complete with a speech and songs I’d made up, when it was time to leave.
People often proclaim themselves city, country, or suburban types. Me? I’m all of the above. The next house my parents built was on Cousins Island in the Portland suburb of Yarmouth, a town I loved for its close-knit community and quiet seaside location. Ocean breezes and beach roses perfume my memories of riding my purple ten-speed on the island’s bumpy bike path, playing Bangles tapes on a boom box at Sandy Point Beach, and leaping off a friend’s dock at night, igniting a blaze of phosphorescence.
Now, Mark and I are ensconced in a Portland Colonial our real estate agent referred to as our “five-year house.” Almost nine years later, we’ve stayed put because we like the city’s diversity, the great friends we’ve found here, and the fact that we can bike or drive just about everywhere we need to go within 10 minutes. Our kids don’t have a huge yard, or island, to explore, but they have Dusty next door, who’s always ready with a joke, Lauren, on the other side, who is a master Lego-vehicle repairer, and Barbara across the street, who delighted them with Christmas presents last year. Dusty also comes over with his snowblower after storms, Lauren takes care of our dog every week when I travel for work, and Barbara let me use her home office and made me dinner during our kitchen renovation. Being surrounded by neighbors like these makes life easier for our busy family.
And yet, if you live in Belfast, Bethel, or Brunswick; Camden, Cape Elizabeth, or Cumberland; Harpswell, Rangeley, Searsport, or Stonington — or one of the myriad other beautiful Maine places I’ve visited — I kind of want to be your neighbor, too.