Do you miss me, Portland? I sure miss you, and I’ve only been gone three days.

I lived and ran around you for five years. And wow, did I ever love running on your streets before sunrise.

But more than the tolling bells at 5 a.m. –

More than the boats heading out to sea in the fog –

More than the teasing aromas from Standard Baking and Becky’s –

I will miss the smiles and waves.

The smiles and waves from the police officers keeping Portland a city safe enough for 100-pound females to run around in the dark.

The smiles and waves from the garbage collectors keeping Portland free of trash and vermin.

The smiles and waves from the collectors of empties with double-loaded carts heading toward Paul’s to redeem their night’s labors.

The smiles and waves from the newspaper deliverers, including my own carrier, who nearly always had my papers outside my apartment by 3:30 a.m.

The smiles and waves from the street sweepers and city plant waterers.

The smiles and waves from my fellow night-loving runners, cyclists and skateboarders — some of whom were heading to bed while the rest of us were still wiping sleep from our eyes.

The smiles and waves from the shopkeepers and early morning workers clutching coffee while sweeping the sidewalks, loading and unloading trucks of doughnuts, bagels, paper goods, lobster and freshly caught fish.

I love to run anywhere, but starting my day with the smiles and waves from Portland faces, so familiar yet unknown by name, always made my troubles fade and good mood improve with every mile.

Thank you, Portland. I wanted to live with you forever, but layoffs happen. No job, no rent money — time to head south.

I miss you, Portland, but I will never forget you. 

Kathleen Smee, a former Portland resident, now lives in Florida, where she is an online college instructor teaching graduate courses in leadership.