New England is a State of Mind

by gillis

We New Englanders are a hearty lot. At least that’s what we want you to think. We are not flashy, or even all that attractive for at least three or four months out of the year when we become either ashy or transparently pale due to cold weather and indoor heating. We don’t “meet cute.” Ever. We reserve judgment. You won’t find us inviting you over to our porch for some sweet tea twenty minutes after we’ve met you, but we might agree to meet you at a bar. Somewhere public. Where we know people, and they don’t overcharge. And twenty years after we’ve known you, we’ll still be there, in the same spot, and we’ll be the ones who quietly bring you meals after surgery, sit with you when your kid is in rehab, and give you a ride home from your divorce lawyer. We prefer to be called flinty, not cheap and not small minded. Never small minded. Except sometimes we are very small minded and the only way we come around to a new way of thinking is when someone we love calls us out on it. Our form of liberalism is not the sunny liberalism of California and the west coast. Our liberalism comes from wanting to be left alone. We might believe in pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, but we do want to make sure you have decent boots before we lay that on you. And after we profess some tough love, we’ll check on you, repeatedly, to make sure the boots still fit. But don’t ever remark on that because we don’t want attention called.

We earn our spring. It isn’t some cherry blossom fantasy that arrives after a few melancholy weeks of rain. It is the hard-fought spring of a desperate people who have nearly given up any hope of allowing their shoulders to move down from about their ears. It happens just at the moment we have accepted the idea that nature – and any creator anyone wants to believe, or not believe, in-  has completely forsaken us and it’s time to go Mad Max on the world to find a scrap of life to cling to before we start some form of ritual sacrifice to end winter. So when our thoughts turn to spring, we aren’t wandering lonely as a cloud and dancing with daffodils, we’re raking up the mud, firing up the burn pile, and hoping the sky clears. Someday.

Yesterday was a blue sky day. And it was warm. Made me soft. Made me care too much. Today was a correction. No snow, but cold, wet rain and layers of gray were sent down to put me in my place. Don’t get cocky, it’s not even April yet. You’re not new here, what are you thinking, wearing shoes without socks? Settle down and watch a Red Sox game. That will bring you back to reality. They all must have had some fun on break this winter because they’re playing like the B team in the middle school intramural league. Don’t get us started on our sports teams. We are never satisfied with them. They win a trophy or a ring? Twenty minutes of relaxation then we’re stressed out about how they’ll blow it the next time. Same way we parent. Even if our kids do amazing things, we don’t want to brag about it in case they end up in rehab in a few months and we need you to be quietly sitting with us to help us get through it.

This is a special place, with beautiful coastlines, cities and minds both large and small, “local” accents like a tight fist shaking in your face mingling with sunnier accents from all over the globe, and open arms just waiting for a reason to uncross themselves…