When I was young, I realized that I had a lot of friends whose parents were from Maine. And most of the time, their grandparents and great-grandparents had also been born and raised in Maine.

My family was not like this.

Both of my parents had moved to Maine for work and for its beauty. It had always just been the three of us in Maine. I didn’t have any aunts down the street, and there was never a Sunday dinner at grandma’s house. I always heard people saying, “Your parents weren’t born here, you’re not a real Mainer.”

Growing up, it made me wonder: What did being a “real Mainer” really mean? I couldn’t flip through the pages of an old Maranacook yearbook and find my mom’s smiling face. I couldn’t hear stories about my dad running through the pews of our church as a child. But I was born here. Didn’t that have to mean something?

I spent my childhood doing “Maine” things. I learned the “Sixteen Counties Song” in music class, I went to regular bean suppers in our church basement, I begged my mom to let me wear shorts as soon as it hit 50 degrees, I tried Moxie while floating on a pontoon boat in the middle of a lake, and I ate my fair share of red hot dogs.

When college came and I moved to Georgia, I wore my Bean boots proudly – even showing them off in one of my senior photos. When new friends would ask where I was from, I was quick to tell them my entire life history and how I was from the best state in the entire country.

But as I grew older, graduated college and moved back to Maine, I came to realize that having a camp in Millinocket doesn’t make you a Mainer. Neither does having an uncle who’s a lobsterman, or a cousin who ran into Stephen King once at Hannaford.

A true Mainer is hardworking, kind, quick-witted and caring – someone you can always call for help. My parents taught me these traits, but it was teachers, camp counselors and members of my church family who instilled them in me through their everyday actions.

Now that I’m making a life for myself in Maine, I hope to exemplify these traits daily, because I know that having each of them under my belt is what will make me a real Mainer.

No matter where I go in life, I will always be proud to wear my name tag of Bean boots and flannel, and to tell each person I meet, “I’m a Mainer.”

 

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