Most natives learn to appreciate Maine if they live for any extended time in another state. I certainly did.

A common way for people to leave Maine is attending a Sox game. It’s also a learning experience when north of Boston the first sight of smog looms into view. I was more afraid of the smog than having the Red Sox and Yastrzemski lose.

Spending time in Florida, a vacation or the entire winter, will show the stark contrast between that state and Maine. No snow? Palm trees? Tans? It’s where I first tasted Busch beer and bodysurfed at a beach. And yet I cut my stay short when a schoolmate visited and got me a ride back with his family. We arrived in Bucksport during a blizzard. I didn’t mind.

A high school graduate might opt for the military. Boot camp is seven and a half weeks for the U.S. Coast Guard in Cape May, N.J. (Mine was 10 weeks.) Company Commanders yell at you. You rise at 5 a.m., double-time it everywhere, do a million pushups or drills with a dummy rifle, and eat chow of abysmal quality served three times a day. My worse experience though, was being alone on a night watch down by the beach. Thoughts of home always crept in like a thief in the night. I usually cried. We recruits dreaded that particular watch.

I eventually made third class bosun’s mate and inherited the deck force of a 327-foot ship – the Duane. It moored at the Maine State Pier in Portland. My home in Hancock County was close enough, even when I sailed the Mediterranean in 1976. It’s like knowing your mother is always there when you first leave the nest.

A recession is by far the most serious reason for Mainers to move out of state. Jobs do hit a dry spell now and then. It seems every generation experiences it. The winter of ’81 looked a lot like a depression. My wife and I and our cat suffered near-starvation. A friend from the service got me a machine-shop job in Massachusetts. We gratefully moved and thought it temporary.

Anyone who ever moves out of Maine believes that. It’s a hope that never dies. Getting a good job with benefits is one nail in the coffin of returning. Friends, another nail. A nice apartment. Another recession in Maine. Inertia.

My relatives and friends stopped asking when we would come back. I sought out bean suppers as consolation. Dreams of Maine became my only link. One in particular: hitchhiking across wind-swept winter fields, the road a thin ribbon. Whispers of snow crystals over crust. And then, upon wakening, a real and nagging hunger.

My wife, Amy, and I relocated to Biddeford with a second cat. In the end it was so easy, like moving to another apartment. Just a few more miles. At a certain age, nothing stands in your way. Find a job and head for home.

My Maine.

Edward M. Turner is a freelance writer living in Biddeford who has published stories, essays and poems. His novel, “Rogues Together,” won the 2002 Eppies Award for best in action/adventure.

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