I grew up in a small village on the Connecticut River in northern New Hampshire. There were more trees and cows than there were people and up until I was a surly teenager, I loved it.
Then puberty hit and I despised my little hamlet. Outside of my family, there wasn’t a single reason to stay and every day brought me closer to college and escape.
Now I’m 10 years past that day and 4 years past the day I left New England completely behind and every fall my heart hurts. It’s like the ache you associate with an old injury, the kind of pain cold weather and rainy days bring.
Leaving New England was like breaking up with a childhood romance.
I often wonder if I’ll ever get over it completely.
* * *
I love the fall. I love the colors and the smells and the cold air that insinuates itself into the shadows, lengthening everything, changing the way the sun filters through windows. I’d love to live in a place that experiences fall weather year round.
Maryland is not that place. The summers are long and hot, lasting well into October. Winter is basically non-existent. Only spring obeys the rules and brings warming temperatures and bright green leaves with it. But fall in Maryland is a strange bird, arriving late in October and staying through early November. It doesn’t coordinate itself with my New England calendar. I find myself often angry with it for taking so long to arrive, but then forgive it for staying so late.
I’ve never craved a New England fall like I have this year. From late August right up until this very second all I’ve wanted is to walk through the White Mountains and listen to the leaves fall down around me. I want apple cider from Ellie’s in Northfield, Vermont and warm donuts from Cold Hollow in Stowe. I want to watch a Norwich football game, bundled up in sweaters and scarves and spend a day outside when it’s so cold I can see my breath well into the afternoon.
I want these things like I want to breathe and right now that terrifies me.
* * *
Jilly and I recently moved, packed up and ventured forth into the great unknown of southern Columbia to test the waters once again as dual roommates. We haven’t lived together, just the two of us, since we left Vermont 4 years ago and part of me worries that too much has changed for that dynamic to work again.
I’m needier. She’s busier. And let’s face it – we’re 4 years older. I don’t know why that matters, but it sounds important.
This is why my sudden need for New England scares me. Do I miss New England in fall because of the memories I have or do I miss it because of the person I used to be when I last experienced it?
Is it possible to miss a previous version of yourself?
There’s been a lot of change – personal and professional – for Jilly and me in the last month or so. She’s handling it like a champ, moving with it instead of against it and relishing the feel of a new current against her. It’s one of her strengths, that she adapts so well to new things.
Not so much.
I’ve become static, introspective, and hard to live with, I’m sure. She’d deny it, because she’s my best friend, but I know it’s true. I’m not myself…perhaps because I’ve changed so much in a month that I don’t know who I am anymore. My birthday seems like it was years ago instead of a month and a half and I’ve already broken all those promises I made to myself.
* * *
I miss my streams, my fall in New England.
I miss early snows and mountains and steaming cups of coffee placed precariously on porch ledges while leaves are raked and preparations are made.
I miss my family.
Most of all, though, I miss myself…
Maybe it’s time to change that.