Here is a letter I have been meaning to write to the Portland Press Herald for 38 years. This is going to feel so good. Only now, instead of fuming, I am laughing. Let me explain.

Late in the evening on Jan. 1, 1981, in a driving snowstorm with a foot of snow on the ground, the temperature hovering near zero, my husband and I moved to Maine. We arrived in separate vehicles after a harrowing 13-hour drive, all earthly possessions fitting into our van and the smallest U-Haul truck you could rent. Today, I am famously afraid to drive anywhere in snow, but on that date years ago, I was feeling my oats, even as my husband and I were separated somewhere along snowy, slippery I-95N (no cellphones then!). I had found a job in Augusta and an apartment in Portland weeks earlier. We were moving to Maine!

We had never visited Maine before we moved here, mind you, but it looked so intriguing on a map and beautiful in the glossy summertime photos sent to us by snail mail (no internet then!) from chambers of commerce in Ogunquit, Portland, Rangeley Lakes and Bar Harbor. Who cared about the snowstorm we were going to have to navigate to get here? So what if there was a foot of snow on Grant Street in Portland when we arrived? And what luck! Look at all the available parking, right in front of our apartment. All along the entire street, in fact.

Not having been to Maine in a snowstorm before, we were blissfully unaware of any such thing as an “Orange Alert” parking ban. We parked our vehicles one behind the other on the empty street and raced into the apartment. I showed my husband around, down the long hallway to the kitchen and back out to the living room that faced the street. But wait! What’s going on out there? What are all of those flashing lights? A police car, a tow truck! Where’s our van?!

The not-very-friendly police officer explained that our van had been towed as he wrote a ticket for our parking violation. No amount of “have a heart, we just moved here, we never heard of Orange Alerts” worked. We could pay a princely sum of cash to that surly tow truck dude over there to have him remove the chains on the U-Haul and retrieve our van for another outrageous sum at a place called “the Ferry Terminal.” Luckily, we had enough cash on us to do both (no debit cards then!). The officer barked, “Follow the tow truck” when we asked him where this “Ferry Terminal” place was.

Clearly, we were strangers in a strange land. We knew no one here. It was near midnight on New Year’s Day, pitch dark and zero degrees, snow falling steadily. This was not feeling like “the way life should be” or a “Happy New Year!” Once reunited with our van, we decided to get a hotel room somewhere and regroup.

I think it was when I saw my frozen houseplants drooping in the back of the van the next morning, or maybe it was when we had to take the van to the shop for repairs to the front end from a rough tow, that I resolved to write a letter to the editor. I wanted to give Portland a piece of my mind about this terribly unfriendly welcome we received.

As I explained at the outset, I never got around to it until now. And now, instead of spilling youthful righteous indignation across the page, I can write with amusement about our eventful arrival to this state we have come to love.

Now my husband and I can laugh about it.

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