Back when I was in the Navy, I was stationed in Bath, Maine where the Navy's newest destroyer was being built. I learned that Bath residents prided themselves on their shipbuilding prowess and their environmental resilience. I quickly learned how tough Maine winters are and also how beautiful summer and fall is, too. After just one winter in Maine with over 100 inches of snowfall, my wife and I decided to buy a house and return to Maine after our military retirement. Up to that point in my life, I'd officially lived in eleven states including CA, TX, IL, MO, FL, NY, CT, SC, VA, GA, PA, and now Maine. In that order. We couldn't wait to get back home when we left in February 2009. The temperature that day was approaching 0º F.
Maine residents, or Mainahs, have this statewide idea that if you don't have several generations of Maine-living in your lineage, you are "from away". Fair enough. But now that I owned a house in Maine, I could then claim I was from Maine, right? For tax purposes, yes, locally, no.
With every newly-built ship about to sail down the Kennebec River away from Bath Iron Works shipyard comes an invitation to the ship's captain and crew for a farewell dinner hosted by the city of Bath. It's a nice event with good food and various speakers from the community sharing their love of the Navy's relationship with Maine.
After the meal, the crew was invited to stand up and announce where they were from. After several crewmembers announced several places "from away", my fellow department head and Operations Officer, whom all the crew knew was from Wiscasset, Maine, stood up and named the town of his nativity to loud and proud applause and smiles. Being a joker, and dozens of years away from San Diego and now with a mortgage as proof, I stood up with a wry smile and stated, "I'm from Topsham." The smattering of applause was just as noticeable as I sat back down. I meant it. I was now from Topsham, Maine. It's where I lived. My shipmates laughed and the dinner went on.
Later that evening, my executive officer told me how the local official seated next to him leaned over while barely clapping and whispered, "He doesn't look like he's from Maine." My XO laughed out loud and remembered to tell me about it later. He knew why I did it.
Now that I've been from Maine going on twelve years, I'm starting to see the one percent of us slowly climb up with an influx of refugees and more residents of color. Just last month, I met a college friend of my daughter's that told me he was born in Maine and couldn't see himself anywhere but Maine. One of his parents was born in Maine, too. He just doesn't look like he’s from Maine. He's been to Boston once or twice. That qualifies him as a Mainah, right? If you ask him, he is.