Our friends Paul and Emily have been planning to move to Vermont for many years. It was one of those ultimate goals that got put off by life getting in the way. After a stint as a construction project manager near Cincinnati, Paul’s Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He and Emily bought a huge house in Connecticut and dedicated their time to helping Paul’s Mom live out her life in the best way possible. After she passed, try as they might, real estate in Connecticut was just not moving and they waited four long years to sell their home to get to Vermont. When they finally moved in it was COVID March 2020 so they came in with the COVID refugees. Their long wait suddenly lumped them in with folks moving here for different reasons. Hey, they were coming anyway.
One of the first things that happened to Paul was an encounter with a town official who gave it to him straight. The fellow told him right up front that he hoped that he wasn’t one of those folks who moved here from someplace else who thought he should immediately come in here and try to “fix” the place. The gist of the message was, don’t come here wanting your road paved and streetlights everywhere. Paul assured him that he was preaching to the choir ... and he truly was.
Paul grew up in New York, ie the Bronx, and then further north of the city in a smaller community. Emily grew up in Beulah, Colorado, a tiny town southwest of Pueblo. They have both served in the U.S. military, Paul in the Marines, Emily in the Navy. She worked in the construction industry in finance, he worked in the construction industry as a project manager. They brought skills with them to Vermont and within a few short months, they started a home inspection business to serve our state housing market.
I’ve enjoyed watching Paul and Emily grow their business exponentially in an amazingly short time. It’s kind of fun to get a call from Paul from somewhere on the road with a question about the pronunciation of a town or place name. The fun part is when he gets it wrong. God forbid I should pronounce Ronkonkoma, New York incorrectly, so it gives me great pleasure to return the favor. He has more difficulty with the New Hampshire names than the Vermont names. Now we call Swanzey, New Hampshire by Paul’s unique pronunciation. Think of the “swan” part of the word pronounced like “swam,” only with an “n.” I quickly disabused him of the notion that you can call Lebanon, New Hampshire with the same inflection as Beirut, Lebanon, a city that he is far more familiar with. Especially since they so famously blew up the barracks where he was residing decades ago, with him barely surviving.
I am disappointed by the fact that I haven’t been able to give him what I call the “H&B Tour” of our local area as I promised a couple of years ago. H&B stands for “History and BS.” He might think that it is a scripted, well-researched travelogue of local history and folklore. Hah! Little does he know that when we finally find the time to do this tour it will be a cobbled-together patchwork of bawdy personal tales, a bit of history, lies, and other fantastical myths about Vermont that we all pretty much know but rarely tell flatlanders because we don’t trust them. You know, the kind of stuff told at deer camp on the last Saturday night when you’ve had one too many PBRs. In my old man’s day, it was Carling Black Label or Genesee. Whatever was the cheapest dreck by the case at the Tyson store.
Since the time of the Abenakis (or is it Abenaquis?), there have been flatlanders coming to Vermont. Even if you are seventh or eighth generation like me you are still descended from flatlanders. However, after a point, it’s our state. I have given up even attempting to guess where that point is. When I hear guys like Paul tell me how much he loves it here after just seven months, a guy who hasn’t whined about one lacking street light or paved road, your definition of a flatlander becomes quite fluid. It’s our state and it’s our rules but those who get it are a special breed right from the get-go.