Love Letters to Maine | Reza Jalali

Dear Maine,

It was love at first sight. You had me at the “Welcome” sign at the Jetport. I was nervous. I was a refugee and worried how to build a new life in Maine. Ours, like most love affairs, is complicated. We make an odd couple. I got here carrying the hot dry summers and the palm and fig trees in my memories, and you have long winters and tall pines. I came from the land of exotic spices, which have caused empires to rise and fall, and your seasonings are salt and pepper. Your celebrated food involves trapping a scary-looking insect relative, boiled while still alive and with its rock-hard shell intact, while my recipes demand days of preparation.

I yearn for you when away but question my sanity for living with you when de-icing my car’s windshield on a freezing day in February. I love your lazy summer afternoons when I’m jumping into Sebago Lake or early mornings spent picking wild blueberries overlooking Frenchman Bay. Your sky is something else. It looks jacked up as if to be closer to heaven. I have learned your accent and your summer dance, jumping up and down, with arms flailing, to shoo away the mosquitoes. I respect Mainers’ skill in ignoring those “from away” but being the first to show up when help is needed.

I adore you, for you sheltered me, a displaced person from another world, added a chair, and taught me to be generous and independent. You made it possible for me to speak, teach, write, and publish—actions I was denied in my homeland. My children were born here. You let me laugh longer and cry deeper. I love you, but I wish you would smile more and let me hug you every now and then.

Jalali is an author and special advisor to the president on diversity at the University of Southern Maine.

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