I don’t know how it happened.
It started off like any other Monday morning, but by the time the sun began to set later in the day I realized that I had lost more than three hours. Gone; Vanished; Disappeared; Hasta la vista, baby!
I could have done laundry. I could have mowed the lawn. I could have gotten drunk and run around naked, cursing the plummeting Dow Jones Industrial Averages.
I could have built something really cool with Legos.
I could have done so many things, but instead I got sucked into the vortex of an ancient, parochial battle field, where soldiers were slaying the dragons of childhood memories. And it all happened on Facebook.
Yup, I was like a porn addict; fervently pitched over my laptop, numb to my surroundings with blood-shot eyes glued to the instant messages popping onto my screen from people I grew up with, people I remember and people I don’t know.
Yup, I joined one of those cyberspace group: You know you’re from ________, if . . .
I am usually much more disciplined. I loathe Farmville and all the other crap on Facebook, but these pages were speaking to me, sparking memories that had long ago been neatly tucked away in order to make room for much more important things than childhood nostalgia.
You know, important, adult stuff: mowing the lawn, doing laundry, getting drunk and playing with Legos.
But this is where I got into trouble. I joined two of these groups. Yup, I am a glutton for punishment and an overflowing e-mail inbox. My decision sparked the ire of competition between these sibling communities. My loyalties were immediately called into question.
I grew up in Saco, a small town that calls itself a city in southern Maine. (Hint: In Maine, we don’t have any cities, only a couple of big towns.)
Today, I live on the other side of the river, in a small town called Biddeford that is also described as a city. These two towns (like so many others in Maine) have a bitter football rivalry. I have always thought of these two communities as one town, and I never paid much attention to the whole rivalry thing. Probably because I never played football.
My grandparents lived in Biddeford and later bought a home in Saco. My grandfather taught high school English in both communities but my grandmother taught fourth grade only in Saco. Shortly after I was born (in a far-away college town), my parents moved into an apartment on Quimby Street in Biddeford. We lived on the third-floor of that “triple-decker” until I was seven years old and my parents bought their first home in Saco.
My best friend at the time was John Lessard.
Today, John lives in Texas, and he has a beautiful family. We are “friends” on Facebook.
Today, I live less than one mile away from that triple-decker, where I learned how to ride a bicycle and kissed a girl for the very first time. So, I guess you could say that I am from Biddeford.
Not exactly, at least according to the opinions of some people.
When I learned that we were moving across the river, I cried myself to sleep. My friends would be gone forever. I would never again see the girl I kissed. John and I would not be riding our bikes to Mayfield Park. Life was coming to a screeching, terrifying and horrific end.
I think it took me between 48 and 72 hours to get over the trauma of moving two miles away from Sevigny’s Market, my childhood friends and that back-yard shoe shop, which has since been converted into apartments.
There were new kids, a new school and even a new market, Don’s Variety. There were no girls who would kiss me, but it didn’t matter much at that time. Back then, I thought I could fly if I tied an old blanket around my neck.
Who needs girls when you can fly?
I don’t think too much about those days, even though I had the pleasure of serving as the editor of my hometown newspaper long after I had ditched my flying blanket (okay, maybe not that long).
The paper covered news for (gasp) both communities. And after traveling and writing stints for the better part of two decades across the country, from Annapolis and Nashville to Oregon, South Dakota and Texas; not to mention a bitter divorce, it felt good to be back home. It was reassuring.
So much had changed, yet so many things were the same.
I choked the interview for that job, but the newspaper’s publisher was eager to hire me because one of the graphic artist remembered having my grandmother as a teacher. I had graduated from Thornton Academy in Saco. I had my first haircut at Ralph’s barbershop, got my First Communion at St. Mary’s, got busted for shoplifting at Zayre’s department store and bought my first lottery ticket at Vic & Whit’s.
I was a local boy. We were a local paper. It didn’t take long for me to assimilate.
Eventually, I re-married and began the task of raising my own children in Biddeford. Some high school acquaintances chided my decision. Why, after all, would I (a Thornton graduate) choose to live among the working-class of Biddeford?
Well, maybe it’s because nobody ever stole my lunch money or gave me wedgies in Biddeford; or maybe it’s because people in Biddeford seemed just a tad less judgmental than their counterparts across the river. Maybe I favor the underdogs: the men and women who made the shoes, the blankets and machine parts more than those who checked the timecards and carried the clipboards.
Or maybe it was because they stopped calling it “Factory Island” and started calling it “Saco Island.”
But the reasons don’t much matter. I am from Biddeford.
And I am from Saco. And I am the lucky one because I have two hometowns.