Saturday, June 30, 2012

A New England Way of Life

Stowe, Vermont. May 2012

Last June, my family of four left the midwest for the northeast--and this new blog was born. A few weeks ago, Boy and I were discussing how beautiful New England summers were--particularly the graduated shades of green splashed upon infinite miles of trees and mountainsides of the Upper Connecticut River Valley.

"Was there ever a moment in your lifetime that you thought you'd live in New England?"

To a girl born in the great American Wild West, the very thought of living on the opposite end of the country was inconceivable. Once I hit college, my mind began to shift open to the possibilities: First came China, somewhere around the middle was Israel, and near the end was my courtship with New York City. None of these places were in the cards for me, but the process of dreaming and planning taught my heart to soar. Somewhere within those years, an independent streak--I didn't know I had--began to take shape.

But, New England?

In the fifth grade when studying all fifty states and state capitols, I always transposed New Hampshire and Vermont. How ironic that I ended up living in the twin states; my days in Vermont and New Hampshire are pretty equally spent, if that makes any sense. The amount of times I've crossed the state line over the Connecticut River and back is easily up in the thousands.

So, what is it like living here? What's that you say? A list? You wanna know what you'd expect if you decided to move into my backyard? (Hey, why don't you?) I've gathered a few things to highlight some things unique to the Vermont/New Hampshire border.
[Disclaimer:  My list contains what I've observed in my locale. Any additions to the list are welcome.]
  • If a person is talking about going to "Mass" over the weekend, he or she is likely traveling to the state directly south, not to a Catholic service.
  • Hot dog buns are slit on the tops, not on the side. "New England Style," yo.
  • Signs warn drivers of speed tables, not speed bumps.
  • Cars don't drive around a roundabout, it's called a rotary.
  • Moxie: a distinctly flavored soda pop that I don't recommend trying.
  • Whoopie pies of all flavors and sizes are abundant. 
  • Wearing makeup is optional.
  • Having a trendy haircut and color is unheard of.
  • A good bug spray is your best friend.
  • Checking the heads of your kids for ticks is a normal thing to do at the end of the day.
  • Built-in air conditioners in homes are rare. You'll only need it for 2-3 months anyway.
  • The word wicked is everyone's favorite adjective, especially when describing how cold it is.
  • Rain boots (or wellies if you want to use the cutesy name) are not worn to make a fashion statement--they're a functional shoe needed for what is called mud season.
  • While at the store to buy cheese, most often your options are limited to sharp or very sharp. Plus, if you want orange cheddar, you're out of luck--all the cheddar you'll ever find is white. 
  • There is a reason why so many blueberries are grown in Maine. They truly and honestly are the best.
  • People take their maple flavoring seriously. It's kind of a big deal out here.
  • I've previously mentioned the French-Canadian neighborliness in another post
  • Although there is no law against plastic bags (yet), bringing your own shopping bags is the popular thing to do--and the only thing to do in some places.
  • You must have cash and pocket change on hand at all times: farmer's markets, toll fees on the Interstate, local stores that forbid credit card machines, parking meters.
  • Older homes are still heated with oil; newer homes use propane. 
  • Having a garage is a luxury. A garage hooked the house? More of a luxury. A two-car garage? Utterly impressive. After many winters in Utah and Ohio of having to park my car on the street or in uncovered residential parking lots, I'll never understand why people around here don't have garages.
  • Tourists who come to New England to see the leaves are called leaf peepers. I still consider myself one and my mouth will always gape wide open as I drive along I-89/I-91.
  • This is definitely specific to where I live--no lights on the freeway at night. It's freaky. Just you and your headlights driving through complete darkness as you're hoping that those little reflectors from the side of the road don't veer you off the bridge. 
  • Every now and then hippies are seen hitch hiking in White River Junction (where the two freeways intersect). You think it's fascinating to go people watching over in Boston? Chicago? NYC? You ain't seen nuttin' yet. 
  • Speaking of people watching...once in awhile, you'll notice some bearded backpackers around: They're hikers from the famed Appalachian Trail.    
  • Everybody shops at thrift shops. Yard sales? Those too. Every Saturday during the summer, you'll drive past one. 
  • There's an excessive amount of antique shops in any town or village you drive through. It's out of control.
  • I know I've missed a lot on this list. Fill in the blanks if you're itching to share.

This year has brought a lot of ups and downs. A lot of happiness and tears. A whole lot of humility. And a lot of wonderful discovery. But if there's one thing for certain: The firefly show out here ain't cutting it for me--that part of the midwest I will really miss.