One of my friends likes to say that everyone who stays in Bar Harbor is running away from something else.
I always argue and say, “No. They are here because it’s beautiful. They’re here because there’s something so lovely about the national park and it’s baby mountains and the carraige roads and the sea. It’s magical.”
“There are other bigger national parks with even more magic,” he’ll say. “Believe me. This is a town of runaways.”
He’s right, but maybe only partially.
Where I live is sort of a haven for beautiful misfits, for people who maybe didn’t make it somewhere else, who maybe weren’t embraced somewhere else. And the people here? We usually love that about each other. There was a postmaster who dressed like Elvis until he retired. There’s an artist who dresses up like a 5-4 Bat Man and dances around downtown with a boombox perched on his shoulder. He’s a good dancer.
But it isn’t really that they are misfits. It’s more that our town – on the whole – lets you embrace your own quirkiness.
And a lot of us are running away from families or hometowns where didn’t fit in. It’s like a refuge for those of us who weren’t loved enough or were maybe loved too much. We even have our own language.
If someone asks you, “How are you doing?” and you answer, “It’s August,” that means you are surviving, but only barely, but hey, at least you’re making money off the tourists.
We make our own family here with weekly five-dollar-stakes poker games, wood cutting parties. We dress up and dress down and collect our friends’ stories and support each other’s nonprofits and brew beer and have yard sales where we buy each other’s castoffs. We go to the grocery store more than we need to go, just to say hello to each other.
Since we live in a tourist town, and in the summer the narrow streets are crammed with parked cars and people who can’t drive, you’d think that we would explode at each other, or at least the tourists. But that doesn’t really happen. We know that we’re neighbors. We know that in winter, we’re going to have to make due with those of us who stay instead of running off to Florida or Arizona or Mexico. We will see each other in the handful of restaurants that stay open in the winter. We will recognize our family despite the layers of fleece and flannel and wool, topped off with parkas.
And we know each other’s flaws. We know who is the narcissist. We know who drinks too much, who loves too little. We know who has anger issues and who lives in fear. We know who has social anxiety, why they’ve lost their job, why they’ve lost their husband, and how many husbands that’s been. But the thing is?
We love each other anyways because that’s what misfits do. That’s wha realt family is. Especially the kind of family that you make yourself.
Family is about authentic connections more than blood.
Family is about acceptance and caring and rooting for each other even in the biggest moments of suck.
The kids book writing community is a lot like my little town. It bands together and makes community within itself. The people in it usually support each other. Friends are made. Loves are had. We see each other’s flaws (Bad tweeting, poor plots, silly dialogue) and still care and support and lift each other.
I wish that the world could be more like these two communities I get to enjoy. I wish that everyone could have a Bar Harbor or a kid lit world. And sometimes I really think that we can. We just have to be brave enough to be authentic, to love others despite their flaws and quirks, and to work at it.
It’s worth working at.
It really is.
Next and Last Time Stoppers Book
Please buy it so I can keep buying food for the dogs… and stuff…
People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.
The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?
You should totally buy my book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun.
OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.
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I’ll be at the Maine Literacy Volunteers Festival on September 8. It is in Augusta, Maine.