28 May 2011

True Confessions

The truth is, I'm sick of the winters here. There, I said it.

When we were looking to move here, back in the later 90s, a friend (who had lived here for a few years) told us that Maine was lovely and safe and wonderful, but that the winters WERE an issue. At the time, we were living in San Diego. San Di-freaking-ego. It was 70 degrees and sunny ALL THE TIME. Yes, even at night. In California, the sun shines at night.

Well, that's what they'd like you to think. But anyway, the weather was a big deal. I didn't want to go to Maine. I thought we'd be living here with Polar Bears and that we'd use snow shoes to get to the grocery store. And those of you who live here with me - I'm not that far off, right?

But if you've read this blog at all, you know that I came here with a make-the-best-of-it attitude. I embraced the snow, the cold, the lugging firewood, the sleeping in flannel and fleece, I taught my kids at home and I held my chin high. I read Little House in the Big Woods to my kids and we pretended it was us. And it wasn't far off, except my husband was going to an office job rather than out hunting bear.

And I loved it. I learned how to work the snow blower, I became a champ at building a fire, I baked my own bread, hung the laundry to dry in the basement by the wood stove, and learned how to keep the house relatively warm in winter, and cool in summer.

And then four years ago, I turned 40.

Around that time, we bought A/C units and space heaters. To hell with suffering and saving a buck, let's be comfortable!

Two years ago, our old snow blower died, and I figured it was a sign - it was time to hire someone to plow our driveway. More than half our neighbors do that, many of them younger than us. I was tired of fighting with that giant machine, fighting with the slush, being sore all the next day. My husband and I had long discussions about the merits of either hiring a plow guy or buying a new machine. Guess who won? I'll give you a hint - it wasn't me.

Also during these past few years, I stopped homeschooling, put my kids in school, and started working. Not only was I no longer home to do all the work that needs to be done to survive in this unforgiving climate, my little worker bees were no longer here either. And during the short time they were home each day, they had homework.

(Aside... homework? They're in school 7 hours a day and they can't cover it all? We used to homeschool in just 4 hours and they knew more than enough.)

The last couple of winters have been tough. It's been a juggling act of trying to do it all, which we all know, no one can really do. It all became very clear to me why many older (and younger) Mainers go South each winter. They just can't take it anymore.

So we took up skiing. We bought the season passes and dragged ourselves out of our dark cozy beds at 5 a.m. to drive to the nearest ski area. It was fun. But we still came back home to all the cold and the work.

Then came this past April 1, when I flew to Arizona to see my son and take my daughter on a college visit. It was 85 degrees where we were, but a foot of snow was falling on Maine. I came home a couple of days later to a wet, slushy mess. And I sort of snapped.

THAT'S IT, I told my husband. WE'RE MOVING TO ARIZONA.

But guess what? His job, which far outweighs my job in the money department, is HERE. Not only that, guess who isn't tired of the winters?

So I whined, complained, and worked myself into a Maine-hating frenzy. I looked at houses out West, and tortured myself by looking at the daily Arizona weather forecast. My husband talked to me about it and helped me make lists of things that would make living in Maine easier. He even told me that we could see about living out there when he retires... in about 15 years.


But I took him up on the making-life-easier thing, and we've been making adjustments to our home that will hopefully help us get through next winter more easily, so I won't drive the snow blower off a cliff. Not that there are any cliffs nearby, but I like the poetic drama and visualization.

When I realized we're weren't immediately moving to warmer climates, I sort of went into an angry funk and started hating everything to do with Maine. The grey skies, grey trees, grey ground.

And then suddenly, one day in May, the flowers all popped up, the leaves popped out and the grass turned green. The bugs arrived in force, the temps leaped up into the 70s and it was time to put away the space heaters and down comforters, and drag the A/C units out of the basement.

And suddenly it doesn't seem so bad. The heavy coats are now put away and I haven't worn a glove in at least a month. We've even started using the sun roof on the car.

Maybe I'll stay a bit longer. After all, the people here are so darned nice. And THAT is not something we'll find elsewhere. Sorry, everyone around the world who isn't in Maine - it's just a fact. I've met you all and though you're all quite pleasant, no one can compare to the people here. If you don't believe me, come for a visit and see.

And next March and April, when I'm ready to bail once again (because trust me, I will be), someone please remind me of this post.

Or just send me to Arizona for a couple of months until the snow is gone and the flowers bloom.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes


Silvia @oronowest said...

It *was* an awfully long winter and a non-existing spring but the summer do have magic in Maine. Just, were is this one?

Carolyn said...

If you're a Seinfeld fan, you'll understand when I say that this post reminded me of Bizarro Jerry. Everything you whined about in your post is exactly why I WANT to move to Maine!

It's May 28 and already I'm tired of the 95 degree temps and 95% humidity here in "north" Texas. The A/C is on and I can't bear to go outside and work in the yard except between the hours of 6:00-8:00 a.m. and 8:00-9:00 p.m.

I, too, have shopped for houses - except in mid-coast Maine. I have contacted a real estate agent. I have pestered my husband about getting the house ready to put on the market. I check the daily forecasts.

We're coming back to Maine in August for a visit. I just might stay.

jamie said...

Having just recently migrated here to Maine after 25 years in Interior Alaska, I can assure you that winter is entirely a matter of perspective, or at least a state of mind. In December during the last week of moving I was trying to keep the pickup running at minus forty, in the dark, while running loads between the cabin and the storage unit. Since arrival here, it has been a wonderful "thawing out!"

That said - there is the matter of 1) wind chill and 2) insane amounts of snow. But at least there are a couple extra seasons to enjoy, like Spring and Fall.

Paulla said...

It's all perspective, isn't it? Thanks for the reminders, everyone. You're right, I wouldn't want to be in hot and humid Texas, nor frozen Alaska. My husband and daughter keep telling me to be happy where I am and with what I've got, and they're so right. Carolyn, I've lived in Texas, and I have to say - I DO think you'd like it here better. And August is the perfect time to visit.

Thanks for letting me vent. :)

A New England Life said...

Being a New Hampshire native I certainly understand your despair. There are days I feel like I can't take it anymore either. But, there is nothing like summer in New England. It just doesn't get anymore beautiful any place else. To bad you couldn't move to southern New England, like Rhode Island. It's a bit better without so much snow.

You're right about the people too. Every time we go to the city the people don't even look you in the eye. I hate that. Here you can strike up a conversation about the price of gas with a perfect stranger and there's an instant connection.