I love this idea. Starting in December, on the first Sunday of every month in Central Maine Sunday and the Maine Sunday Telegram, you’ll be able to read stories by readers focused on a particular subject. I expect lots of wonderful stories about Maine.

As Greg Kesich, editorial page editor of the Portland Press Herald and Sunday Telegram, said in a recent column, “as the months pass, the online archive will develop into a picture of life in Maine that grows deeper and more nuanced than what you usually see on the opinion page.”

“Stories are powerful,” wrote Greg. “Our ability to turn sights, sounds and emotions into words is the structure of our lives. We are wired to like stories. Telling them is probably the oldest form of entertainment and still the best.”

Amen to that. The first topic is “Heading Home” and the deadline for submissions is Nov. 28. The next subject is “Starting Over,” with a deadline of Jan. 2. And the third subject is “A Lesson” with a deadline of Jan. 30.

Stories should be between 200 and 500 words and can be emailed to [email protected], or mailed to: Meetinghouse, Portland Press Herald, P.O. Box 1460, Portland 04104–5009

I hope you will participate in bringing good stories to our newspapers and lives. Today I will share with you my story for the “Heading Home” subject. Here it is.

In 1974, I left Maine to work for newly-elected Congressman Dave Emery. Dave and I lived in a rented house in Alexandria, Virginia. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I could never live any place but Maine.

Although we lived just 10 miles from Dave’s office on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., it often took an hour and a half to drive there. One day, very frustrated, I moved over into the breakdown lane in my VW bus and made much better time until I was pulled over by a police officer.

“What do you think you’re doing?” he asked me. “Well, I’m not sure,” I responded, “but in Maine we drive on everything that’s paved.” The officer laughed and told me to get back in line. No ticket was issued.

We didn’t have any furniture and one night Dave didn’t have his house key so he put up a ladder and climbed to his bedroom. We left the ladder up and headed to work the next day. At noon I got a call from the Alexandria police, reporting that someone had broken into the Congressman’s house and stolen all his furniture. “Well, we don’t have any furniture and that’s our ladder,” I responded while thanking them for their diligence.

After a year of spending most of my time in D.C., I created a job that allowed me to go back and forth, buying a house in Winthrop, my hometown, where I was quickly elected to the town’s first town council, after they abolished town meeting.

But after I met my wife Linda, who also grew up in Winthrop, we both decided we wanted a smaller town. I especially missed town meeting. After searching the area, we fell in love with our house in Mount Vernon, which was built in 1796. And we’ve lived here ever since, now in our 40th year.

Mount Vernon is a very caring community, with a great library and community center that hosts many events, including a Saturday morning community breakfast. I raised the money to build a two-story addition to our library, which is just being finished.

I was very pleased this year to receive the Spirit of America Award from Mount Vernon for my contributions to this community. And I’ve got to say, because of my illness, ALS, the community is doing a lot for me.

Perhaps this is what I missed in Washington, that caring community where you can know everyone and everyone knows you. I like to say we are blessed with great neighbors, partly because we can’t see their houses.

While rural Maine is very challenged these days, I have to believe the things I love here will continue to draw people.

Ironically, our youngest daughter Hilary lives in Washington and loves it there. I don’t know how we raised a city girl!

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.

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