Not Bad for a Caribou Girl

Heather - Tampa, Florida
Entered on March 31, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: place

I believe in the importance of place. Along with genetic, family, and social influences, “place” helps to create us.

I grew up in Caribou, a small town in northern Maine, not far from the Canadian border. There was one traffic light, one high school, and one place to get a decent sandwich. We got out of school for three weeks each Fall to pick potatoes for the local farmers. I would imagine that just like being born and raised in Los Angeles or Lansing, being brought up in Caribou provided a geographic foundation upon which I continue to build. In my case, the foundation looks a lot like a snow-covered potato barrel.

I remember taking a family road trip as a child and seeing Boston for the first time. I had my face pressed up against the window, completely enthralled by the tall buildings and vibrancy of the place. “I’m *definitely* going to live here when I grow up,” I exclaimed to my parents who had heard many such proclamations from me before. I was also going to be a scientist, never get married, and have lots of money. At least I did end up living in Boston for a stint, and loved every minute of it. As I have wandered around the map, pieces of each place get incorporated into me. I’m a Russian nested doll of places I’ve called home with Caribou as the tiny doll in the center.

Williamsburg was slow and genteel – I added some southern charm to my repertoire and a love of warm nights. Boston was about fast driving, smart suits, anonymity and finding a place to park. Tampa, my latest stop, is a place where tall buildings tower over cow pastures. Tampa is like me, which is why I believe I have settled here – it’s a hybrid – a place where North and South live together. A place with limited parking but warm nights. A place where you hurry up to slow down.

And so these places have shaped me and while I’m generally grateful for the different influences sometimes I worry that I’ve set myself up for disappointment – imagine wanting fresh lobster in Kansas or wanting a date to be some combination of L.L. Bean and Versace. I may never return to Caribou; my family has moved and I have no blood connection to the place. Nonetheless, I was built on it; it is part of my metaphorical DNA. So I have my sensible shoes, a snow shovel perpetually in my trunk and a visceral appreciation for the potato on my plate. But I also have the finest nail polish on my toes, a penchant for plantains, and can parallel park on Beacon Street in the tightest of circumstances. Not bad for a Caribou girl.