This fall marks two anniversaries for me. One: I've lived in Massachusetts now for 30 years, having moved here from the friendly, Welcome Wagon-toting Midwest. I remember early in my career I interviewed the mayor of a small city, trying to find out what issues my PR client might address with a community service project. I had lived here fewer than 4 years at the time.
Well, he said, there's a lot of tension between the longtime residents and the newcomers.
Newcomers? I asked. What constitutes a newcomer?
Anyone whose lived here fewer than 30 years, her replied, with a hint of a smile.
Welcome to New England, where, as they say, they don't need street signs, because if you don't know where you're going, you have no business being there.
It's taken me a long time to get used to the quirks of living here. The jaywalking. (Once, in Harvard Square, a woman walked out right in front of my car paying no heed to the fact that she wasn't in the cross walk, not to mention the oncoming cars. Because she seemed oblivious to the traffic, I gently beeped the horn to get her attention, assuming she would see her predicament and scurry to the curb. Instead, she walked over to my open window and shouted two words, and, as they say, they were not 'Happy Birthday.') The aggressive driving. (Another time, when I'd just moved here and still had Ohio plates on my car, I stopped at a yellow light that was just about to turn red. I looked in the rear view mirror to see if the car behind me was going to hit me--judging by his speed, the driver clearly thought I was going to follow the rule of 'green means go and yellow means go faster.' I saw him peer over the steering wheel at my plates and and mouth the words, "Oh. Ohio." Apparently obeying the law is a Midwest rube sort of thing.)
I learned early on that you don't say Commonwealth Avenue, you say Comm. Ave. That famed restaurant Jimmy's Harborside is always called "Jimmy's" and it's rival, Anthony's Pier 4 is never "Anthony's," but "Pier 4." Sadly, I've lived here long enough to see the demise of both resturants.
I learned there's a difference between Fenway and The Fenway. That the Big Green Monster is not on Sesame Street. I learned to turn indifference toward the Yankees into hatred.
When I first got here in '79 and everyone was buzzing about Bill Rodgers, I had to be told that he was a four-time winner of the Boston Marathon. Given the amount of disdain I received for not knowing this fact, I chose not to reveal that I had no idea what the Boston Marathon was, let alone that it was a major event that shut down the city. Of course, in 1979, no one outside of Boston or the elite running world did, either.
I learned to put up with comments along the lines of "You're from Ohio, did you grow up on a farm?" and the oft-repeated joke (or perhaps urban legend) about the Ivy League admissions counselor who corrected an Ohio-born applicant with the words, "My dear, out here we pronounce that 'Iowa.'"
But, it's been 30 years.
I no longer panic when I see the sign that tells me to go in the same direction to get to I-93 north and I-95 south. And, I still call the part of 95 that encircles the Boston suburbs '128'--even though it hasn't been that for several years.
When I recently attended a Red Sox game where they played the Tigers, the team I grew up with, I rooted for the Red Sox. (I felt a little guilty.)
I know what leaf peepers are and how to determine when peak season is. I am not surprised when it snows in October. Or May.
When we moved into our "new" home four years ago, it was the first time in 26 years I'd had a garage. But, like a true New Englander, I don't park in it.
I no longer feel like a newcomer. I no longer am.
I love it here: the leaves, the rolling hills, the quirky people, the anachronisms. I no longer stand out because I'm "from Ohio," because, let's face it, I've lived more than half my life here.
There were times I thought about moving back--where my family lives, where people are friendlier, where parking places are free and garages are not considered a luxury--but 20 years ago this month I did something to cement my future: I married a native New Englander. A person who can't imagine living less than an hour from the ocean, even though he goes there less than once a year. He positively gets the shakes when I mention the thought of moving to another part of the country.
But it's all for the best. I'm settled. Why move and become a newcomer somewhere else? I'd just have to start all over again.