Visiting my hometown is like stepping back in time. Very little has changed in Machias, Maine, since I was a child. There are a few new restaurants, a second (second!) bar, and the Rite Aid moved locations a few years ago (though the store’s past residence still sits empty years later with the same “for sale” sign out front). The town still does not have a stop light.
You can’t go anywhere in town without running into people you know. That’s because the town’s current population is 1,274, a number that has declined since my childhood. This matches with the rest of the state’s trajectory, so much so that an article was published in the Bangor Daily News (pretty much the only “major” paper in the state) in 2013 titled “Is Maine’s population too old and white to be sustainable?”
On my father’s side, I am the only member of the immediate family to live outside of the state. All of my grandfather’s living sisters and brothers, all of my dad’s siblings, my parents and sister, and all of my cousins and their children live within two hours of Machias.
I’ve worn the “black sheep” title of the family for well over a decade now. I used to feel guilty whenever I would go home, and remarks would be made about how nice it was for the family to be together again, and how sad that it couldn’t happen more often. But now, I just smile in response instead of trying as before to justify my location choices. The truth is, I love my family very much, and I appreciate the time we get to spend together. We have a healthier relationship when we value our time together, and I doubt living within two hours of Machias would ever satisfy ideals of those in my family who wish for a closer physical location.
I love going back home. And I love returning to my Tri-Cities home when my visit is over. Quality time, to me, is worth so much more than quantity of time.
That applies to more in life than just family visits.
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