When you enter Maine, the state sign says, "Maine; Vactionland". Or it says, "Maine, the way life should be". Both are state slogans, although I can't remember which one is on the sign. Both slogans land a little differently with my family.
Can we keep vacationing in Maine?
Sure we can, but there has to be more.
The boys are loved here in Maine. They are on a first name basis with the locals and the summer folks as well. They have been here every summer since they were born and we were here for 6 months during Covid. Desi learned to walk here. Rory marched for George Floyd here.
But, it doesn’t always feel right. I think it felt more okay when we came up from Brooklyn, leaving the boys’ Black communities (school, day care, swim school….) for a few weeks. But leaving West Hartford to go to Maine doesn’t sit as well. It’s going from a lot of white to….WHITE. Maine is the second whitest state in the country.
Our boys deserve to know what it’s like to exist in spaces where the majority of people look like them at home AND on vacation.
Friends in Maine will often say, “are people nice to them here?”, like, as long as there isn’t overt prejudice directed at them, then they are fine and safe and we can enjoy this predominantly white space on the coast of Maine. Does that mean that my boys are safe? No. It does not. Safety means more than physical safety. Keeping my children “safe” means a lot of things. In addition physical safety it means existing in spaces where they can feel completely themselves. That’s what safety means too.
Sometimes coming to Maine feels too…. intentional. Like, no whiter space exists in the country. Like we are intentionally plopping them into the whitest space we could find.
For the first time, Maine doesn’t feel like the most perfect place on earth. It took 42 years and having Black children to understand that.
My kids have the privilege and joy of experiencing an iconic New England summer - fresh air, fishing, hiking, lobster, swimming. It’s an incredible summer- but this can’t be it. That’s not fair for them. Seeing this place through my children’s eyes; Their Black experience in Maine. How lonely it must be to not see yourself reflected back, no matter how good the lobster is.
As their white parents, we have a responsibility to provide the opportunity for our children to be in Black spaces often and early (says the mom who just moved her transracial family from Brooklyn to Connecticut- too many thoughts for a blog post- wait for the book).
And Maine, I can attest , is our happy place. For all 4 of us. There’s magic in Maine and we all feel it and shift when we cross over that bridge from NH. But it can’t be it. Not anymore. Not after seeing my children in Black spaces. It’s a certain kind of joy that is palpable when you see it in them. It’s an undeniable joy that they deserve, in their everyday and also on their vacations.
So, Maine is for always, but not the only “vacationland” anymore. Onward we go….xx