In May 2018 I left Maine after 25 years of residency because I became terminally ill and needed to be near my family in the South. I knew when I left Maine that the departure would be heart-rending, but I had no idea at the time how difficult adjusting to life elsewhere would be.

I am a psychiatric nurse, and my psychiatrist husband and I moved to Maine in 1993. I was raised in the South and, like all good Southerners, was taught to mistrust “Yankees” and to be exuberantly proud of my heritage. When I researched our family and discovered that our Civil War soldier from East Tennessee had actually fought on the Union side, it took a fair few months for some of my extended family to forgive me for uncovering this shameful fact. When we moved to Maine, my young daughter looked at the Yankee Ford signage in South Portland and exclaimed, “Look at that, Momma. It’s like they’re proud of it!” It was very difficult to get her young mind to accept the fact that “they” were indeed proud of their Yankee history.

The young daughter grew up and gravitated back toward her Southern roots, but I remained in Maine even after my husband’s death. I worked in various settings including home health, residential and school programs. I found mental health services in Maine to be kinder, gentler and much more patient-focused than anything I had encountered when working in the South.

I discovered that making friends in the North was a more intensive process than the superficial and quickly expedited procedure in the South. It was more difficult for “people from away” to be accepted. My first five years in Maine were lonely, but gradually I was accepted. Mainers proved to be loyal and life-long friends, generous and truly loving.

The physical beauty of the state was breath-taking. The color display of autumn defied adequate description, and the chill in the air generated a cozy feeling I had never before experienced. I loved the wonder evoked by freshly fallen snow in winter. Spring and summer were brief, intensely green and joyous. I enjoyed all of this amidst the backdrop of Casco Bay with the sights and sounds of an active port reminding me that I was perched on the edge of the vast Atlantic Ocean.

In 25 years Maine became my emotional home, and a year and a half of being somewhere else has not lessened my longing for Maine. I collect pictures of various Maine tourist sites on my phone to remind me of the beauty that I experienced during my decades there … but the sad thing about photographs is that they show you what was, not what is.

I know that you Yankees are proud of your state, and your admiration of your wonderful state is well-founded. Please know that this Southerner has found it an incredibly difficult place to leave behind.

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