Much to my disappointment, our new granddaughter, Ada Claire Smith, was born in Massachusetts four months ago. Our son Joshua and daughter-in-law Kelly would have loved to be in Maine, but were unable to find good jobs here, so they live in Bridgewater, Mass.
I have asked my state senator, Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, to sponsor a bill next session that establishes if your parents wanted to and/or tried to be in Maine before you were born, then you can be a Mainer.
Two weeks ago, I was talking to a summer resident, a person from away, who lamented that even though she has spent all summer here for many years, she knows she can never be a Mainer.
This has gotten me to thinking about what it takes to be a Mainer. Perhaps it shouldn’t be limited to just those of us who were fortunate enough to be born here. For our summer residents, and all others who aspire to be a Mainer, here’s what it takes.
Mainers don’t say “Ayuh” or tell Burt and I jokes — unless we are trying to entertain people from away. We do speak with a bit of an accent — OK, quite a bit of an accent — and that might be the most difficult thing to master. But we have different accents, depending on our heritage, so don’t worry about this.
Mainers make do. At appearances for my new book, “A Life Lived Outdoors,” I read the chapter on making do. For those who have no idea what this means, do is not a product that we make. Make do is what we do. The phrase “make-do” is actually in the dictionary, defined as “make-shift,” a hyphenated adjective. Make-shift is defined as a noun meaning, “a crude and temporary expedient: substitute.”
They got it wrong. There is nothing temporary about making do. And it’s more than an adjective. It’s a permanent way of life, at least in Maine. I’ve been delighted at my book talks to encounter so many folks from away who understand and embrace making do here.
Mainers love to have and to shop at yard sales. But be forewarned. Mainers don’t throw much away, at least those of us with attics, garages, barns or big yards. Someday that stuff will be useful, something we can make do with. You can tell the difference between the Mainers and those who aren’t, when each has a yard sale. There’s nothing at all useful at the yard sale of a “making-do” Mainer.
Mainers know that if you can’t find what you need at Reny’s, Marden’s, Hussey’s, Goodwill or the local country store, you don’t need it.
Many Mainers have camps. We do not have cottages. We eat supper, not dinner, except for Sundays when we eat dinner at noon. We always have beans for supper on Saturday night. Mainers had vegetable gardens before vegetables were all the rage.
Mainers hunt and fish. This is changing, I have to admit. Only 100,000 of us hunt and fish every year now. Lots more hunt and fish, occasionally, but do not do both every single year. Mainers own guns and don’t want you to know we have them.
Mainers miss their children, many of whom left the state for jobs and better futures. We often work more than one job to make ends meet. We are hard workers, most of us. Mainers make their home improvements out back, so the assessor can’t see them. We are not pretentious — just the opposite, really. And no matter how much money we have, we dress down.
Mainers worship the Red Sox. No, you can’t be a Mainer and a Yankee fan!
We are very friendly. We wave at all who pass us on the road, say hi to anyone walking by. This often gives us away as Mainers. Another easy thing to master if you aspire to be a Mainer.
Mainers pride themselves on their independence, in politics and all else, and like having neighbors as long as they are far enough away that they can’t be seen nor heard.
As I conclude this column, I am thinking that some people from away may be more Mainer than some Mainers.
So, here’s my invitation. I’m just getting warmed up here. I’d like to write more about what it takes to be a Mainer, with your help. Send me your suggestions and I may use them in a future column. And you don’t have to be a Mainer to do that!