I have never been a Good New Englander. Though I've lived here for something like half my life, off and on, I just never quite got it. Though I know how to properly tie a scarf and how to walk on ice, I never figured out the right clothes, the right shoes, the trappings of winter that allow other people to avoid constantly shivering from November to May. Though I technically know how to drive in snow, I don't like it; I was never initiated into the mysteries of those who speed happily along I-95, their view unobstructed by whirling snowflakes and fogging windshields.
As I write this I am drinking from a bottle of water which contains a bottled-water-shaped ice block within it. I retrieved it from my car, where it has spent the last few days solidifying in the cold, because my tap water smells like chlorine and I can't figure out why, or whether it's safe to drink. Everyone else knows, presumably, because everyone else presumably got the small-town-New-Englander memo. But I am not on that wavelength; I can't pick up that secret frequency through which Good New Englanders know that there is a parking ban on, or how to pronounce Chepachet. I am a Bad New Englander.
I am also probably the only person in Connecticut who cancelled their New Year's plans tonight because reports of numerous accidents, closed roads, and freezy slippery conditions made driving to Massachusetts to see a friend suddenly seem less fun and more worrisome. Despite the fact that I really wanted to go, and that this friend is a Good New Englander, with roots here dating back several hundred years, who now may well hate me for cancelling, I couldn't bring myself to dismiss the warnings and venture onto the highway. Clearly, I belong in an arid desert country or a city large enough to make cars unnecessary. And yet, entirely of my own volition, I left places like that, and moved back here. And sometimes, like when I'm shoveling my car out of a snow drift, or when I wake up in the middle of the night and find that my toes, in their three pairs of socks, have not yet thawed from their evening walk up the front steps, I wonder why.
It's not that I want to fit in, or to live in a place that feels like "home." Actually, probably perversely, I enjoy living where I don't belong. I observe better when things strike me as strange; I like to look out at the world from a standpoint of confusion. But I sometimes wonder if that's sustainable, or worth it. I wonder what it would be like to live, permanently, someplace where life is not a constant source of minor stresses and perplexing happenings, where I'd never be confused by my tap water or worried into cancelling plans because of unplowed roads. I look out at the snow falling, covering the street and the grass and the railings, and wonder what it would be like to live someplace I could be good at.