As I pulled in the driveway the other day, a song came on the radio and I immediately recognized Jon Bon Jovi’s voice. The song was called, “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.” I guess there are a couple of versions of the song, but the one I heard was a duet with Jennifer Nettles of the Country group Sugarland. As I listened to the lyrics, there was only one place I thought of – my hometown of Machias – a small town of about 2,100 along the coast of Maine.
Doesn’t matter where you are
Doesn’t matter where you go
If it’s a million miles away
or just a mile up the road
Take it in, take it with you when you go
Who says you can’t go home
I grew up an FAA brat. My father, a Pennsylvania native, met my mother while he was working as a radar technician in Bucks Harbor, Maine. They married four months later, my mother never imaging they would ever leave Machias.
I was born in Machias, as were my two brothers. We left, when I was a toddler, to move to Oklahoma. From there we moved to western Massachusetts, where I started grade school. We arrived in Peachtree City in the early ’80s. I attended both Booth Middle School (it was Jr. High then) and McIntosh High School. After four years in Peachtree City, we moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, where I graduated from high school. I was part of the largest graduating class in the state at that time, 721. I spent two years at UNC-Charlotte before transferring to the University of Nebraka, again following my parents. I was never crazy about Nebraska, so I hitched a ride back east to Pennsylvania in 1993 after I graduated and my father retired.
I found a job in Pennsylvania and worked full-time for four years while I pursued my master’s degree in library science on the weekends. Then it was back to Peachtree City, of all places, after I accepted a position at the library. I’ve been here eleven years this time around.
I’ve never known quite how to answer when people ask, “So where are you from?” I used to say, “Everywhere.” Or sometimes I’d just answer with the last place I’d been, “Pennsylvania.” But I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I’m from Machias. Ok, so I didn’t live there very long. But that’s where my heart is.
It’s the memories that keep me there. We used to go back to Machias almost every summer to visit my grandparents. The best times were when our cousins, also transients (Navy), would meet us up there. It was perfect – my mother had two boys and a girl and her sister had two boys and a girl – so we always paired up. Half of us would stay at my grandparent’s house in town and the other half would stay up at “the camp” at a lake about ten miles outside of town.
I feel most at home when I’m in Machias. I feel close to those in my family who have passed, including Jennifer. I swear I’ve heard her laugh with me when I’m up at the lake. My parents are buried up there, as are my grandparents, my grandparents’ grandparents, and so on back 200+ years.
I try to go up every summer. Sometimes I make it up twice a year. Just as the lyrics say, “Take it in, take it with you when you go,” I keep Machias in my heart when I leave.
Last summer I was able to bring the whole family to Maine with me. It made me happy to see my son Michael take to the place, doing the same things I did as a kid. Swimming, exploring, catching frogs. Now he looks forward to next summer with me – when we can return to the place I call home.