I’m Lea Wait, and I wear two author hats: I write traditional mysteries starring Maggie Summer, but I also write historical novels set in 19th century Maine aimed at ages 8-14. Wearing that second hat, I often speak in classrooms. When I speak in Maine classrooms I’m usually introduced as a “Maine author.” I clear that up right away, because I know in Maine distinctions are important. I admit that, although I live here now, I was born in Boston. After one school visit a small boy ran after me, tugged on my sleeve, and admitted in a whisper, “Don’t feel bad. I was born in Boston, too.” He knew you can never really make up for not being born a Mainer. You’ll always be “from away.” (If you live on an island you’re even more planted – anyone not from your island is an “off islander.”) Someone who’s moved to Maine recently – say, within the last 25 years – is a “transplant.” It’s not an insult. People introduce themselves that way.
So – I live on the coast of Maine. But I’m not a Mainer. I was born in Boston, and I’m from away. I was a summer person for 50 years or so, and now I’m a transplant from New York City and New Jersey. It’s good to lay the facts out the way they are. No pretenses.
A few summers ago I was walking with my husband down a quiet road near our home. A car pulled up to us and an elderly woman leaned out of the driver’s seat to advise us, “You folks are walkin’ too close to the middle of the road. You’ll be killed.” Well, the way she was driving that was a possibility. I thanked her for the advice. She paused a moment. Then she asked, “You folks from around here?” I said, “I’m Lea Wait, from the white house up on the corner of Eddy and Clifford Roads.” She looked me up and down for a moment and said, “You used to go to church with your grandmother. I haven’t seen you there recently. You’ve changed some. Your grandmother died, didn’t she?” “Yes, she did,” I replied. “In 1967.” “Well, she was a good woman. It’s nice seeing you again.” “Good seeing you, too,” I answered. And she drove on.
My husband, new to Maine, just stared, but I knew it was all right. I had passed muster. I belonged. I wasn’t a Mainer, but I was part of the community.
I don’t remember when the smell of saltwater breezes didn’t remind me of home, and I every day I tell myself how lucky I am to live in this wonderful state. But I never fool myself that I am a Mainer. Never was; never will be. And it’s all right. Boston wasn’t a bad place to have been born.