Mike

THE LIFE STORY OF A MAINE TEENAGER

Interviewed December1991

 

I was born and raised in Maine. I have never really traveled out side of New England, in fact while growing up I rarely left the county which I lived in. I was born at Machias General Hos- pital on October the 29th, 1973. There was nothing overly unusual about my birth, other than my being about a month premature, al- though I was still a pretty hefty boy of 7 and 1/2 pounds. I was raised in the small village of Cutler, Maine, a coastal fishing community which is part of the most extreme eastern portion of the United States.   I guess I was fortunate in a lot of ways in terms of being born in a community that everyone sort of looked after one another.

There are lots of close knit relationships there. I loved being near to the ocean. I guess I sort of took it for granted growing up, being so close to the ocean and all. Our house you see, is located right on the ocean so you were never far from it.

I don’t really have all that many memories that really stand out as far my early childhood years. I do remember my parents complaining that I was way too curious and independent for my own good.     You see, I used to crawl away and explore a lot. Later, when I could walk I would explore the far reaches of our land and often got lost.   My parent’s brilliant (and rather practical) so- lution to this, was to place me in my outdoor sandbox and tie a rope around my leg so I could not run off!       Don’t get me wrong, this was effective at keeping me out of trouble, although my ex- plorations to the outer reaches of our land were severely cur- tailed.   I remember riding my first bike without training wheels. This was a big step in my life because :now I could         have much easier access to my friends.

I remember me and my friends form- ing a club called the “Jackknife Club”.       we all were Sth or 6th graders who met mostly after school after we were let off the school bus.   I don’t think that the club had any real purpose or any chain of command, as all we usually did was ride our bikes around town and pretend that we were on patrol or something.         We also had lots of arguments and fights over who would pretend to be who (we watched lots of TV so we would pretend to be one of our       TV heroes while riding).

Elementary School was a pretty fun experience.       our school was really small, so tiny that grades were paired up in each classroom, for example 3rd and 4th grade would be in the same room. There was only one teacher, but there was only about 6 or 7 of us in each class, so we received a lot of attention.         I remember quietly doing homework in the back of the class while the teacher worked with a different grade up in the front of the class.   I guess I liked school so much during those years because things were sort of informal and everybody knew each other.           it was our own little world or “incubated society”.

I remember several really super teachers that seemed to really care about us. They really had a good idea of what went on our in our lives as most teachers sort of hung out with the parents a lot at night; sometimes helping out with the lobster boats in the summer.         One teacher, Mr. Fedelski, visited my house once to see how         I was doing after being stung by bees when I was 10 years old.

my first real job was helping out my uncle when I was about 10 years old.   I was really too small to do much, and what work I was given was mostly dirty, smelly, dull tasks. I soon developed a severe dislike to working on the boats, although I didn’t let on to anybody about this, as I didn’t want to look like a sissy or something.   I guess I wanted to look and act like a man so I stayed on helping out on the boats when I could, eventually spend- ing a few summers working full time.       You see, fishing was the largest occupation in the area, or county for that matter for gen- erations, so there was a strong tradition to being a fisherman and living by the sea.

I feel real fortunate to have been raised by what I feel are the best parents in the world.     They also sort of spoiled me, as I was the youngest child in my family.     My father is a carpenter who worked on various contracting jobs around the area, my grand- father before him was also a carpenter.     The rest of my extended family was involved with fishing or some sea related occupation. I was never very close to my grandfather as he tended to spend a lot of time with my older brothers and sisters. By the time I came along, he was probably too tired out to spend much time with me as he was pretty old.  My other grand parents died when I was young, so I guess that I wasn’t really influenced all that much by my grandparents.

My parents were pretty supportive to me, as they never really pressured me into following any set course of action. After rais- ing three brothers and a sister before me they could have devel- oped some pretty tight guidelines. Maybe my parents had just sort of mellowed a bit.   I feel closer to my mom, I guess for a number of reasons.   First mom was home more often than dad as she worked only part time at the fish cannery; but mostly because she was the one who I would ask favors to, and would be the one who gave me permission to do stuff, like to go out with friends or go to the store.   Speaking of stores, we were in extreme “sticksville” in Washington county. There are two small stores in Cutler, sort of like convenience stores or “Seven Elevens”.       There are few, if any, restaurants around, except in the summer when there are road- side takeouts selling fresh seafood. There is no McDonalds. The closest is 15 miles away at machais.     You see Machias is the real urban area for us out in Cutler.     This town (pop. about 4,000) boasted all sorts of attractions and services such as a McDonalds and a movie theater which played movies that were about a “good” year behind any of the new current releases at cinemas. There was also a University there as well.   We usually made a weekly trip to Machias for grocery shopping (the nearest Shop and Save) and whatever clothes shopping or errands that had to be done.  I had always sort of thought that Machias was a pretty good size town.   For any thing major such as Christmas shopping or to see a concert we went to Bangor which was a good hour and a half away. To me, Bangor was a huge metropolis. I remember looking in awe at any building over three stories in height, in fact I used to think that they were skyscrapers.

Getting back to my family, I had three older brothers and a sister.   My oldest brother is currently 39 years old, followed next by a sister who is 32, a brother who is 29 and another brother who is 24. So you can see that there is a big gap in years until I came along.     Because of this gap in time I really didn’t get to form any real close bonds with any of my older brothers un- til I was older. My two older brothers and sister were either away at college or starting a family far away from my home. So I don’t really have any special moments growing up with my older brothers although today I’m very close to them all.         The next youngest brother, Elliot, was someone with whom I could hang out with but not for any long periods of time. we would sort of get on each other’s nerves whenever we would play sports or hang out together, mostly because of jealousy. We were also quite competitive. When playing sports with friends Elliot would always try to make me look bad so he could show his friends and mine that he was the better athlete. We had a few fights although nothing serious.           I guess it is pretty normal stuff among brothers when you think about it.

My high school years were probably the best years of my life so far.     Things just seemed to go right during those years. Compared to the tiny single room classes of my elementary and junior high, high school was a really big adjustment to have to make. I went to Washington Academy (a private school), instead of Machias High School, because residents of Cutler were able to at- tend the Academy for free due to some sort of tax break.  The Academy had around 350 students from about 5 surrounding towns, (Washington Academy was also located in Machias), so I guess in terms of other high schools it was pretty small. I wasn’t much of a scholar at school although I always sort of figured that I would be going to college.     A large number of our high school graduates usually leave home to go to college. Not that I was pressured in any way to attend college (all of his older brothers and sisters attended college in and around Portland). I just sort of saw this as means to improve myself.       my grades were fairly average.   I   really   don’t remember spending much, if any, serious time on any homework assignments. I usually would try to take care of   that in study halls.     most of my classes were pre-college level.   We had three levels – general, college and honors. So I guess I was sort of in the :middle of the pack as far as academics are concerned.

while I always had dreams of being a great athlete, such as being a pro basketball star,   the law enforcement field had long been an appealing and interesting field to pursue.     I guess my interest in this area started as a young boy growing up.     my par- ents were good friends with a state trooper who frequently stopped by our house.     I took an instant liking to this policeman and he soon became a good friend who always was very patient with my steady flow of questions about his job.       That was another reason for wanting to attend college.       I could study law enforcement, and then enter the field either on the state police force or on the federal level in Washington.     I never really thought too much about my other subjects; science, math and English never really interested me, although I found social studies to be kind of fun and interesting.

I met a whole new group of friends upon entering high school as many of my old grade school friends elected to go to Machias High School.     my new friends tended to be older junior and se- niors.     Some of them knew my older brother, but the chief reason I met these new friends was because I played sports.         I was a pretty good athlete, making the varsity basketball and baseball teams as a freshman.     I was not anywhere near good enough to be a starting player,     so I spent most of my time on the bench.       This was good in a way because I learned a lot from watching them per- form. I used the lessons I learned from their leadership in my junior and senior years.     These older friends sort of took me un- der their wing as I was the only freshman playing on varsity teams.   Soon I found myself a regular in their crowd.       I guess I acted pretty mature because they were not the least bit hesitant about including me in any of their activities.       Because of my age and being new to everything I was given the nickname “greenhorn”; a name that my friends back home still call me.       I don’t really remember having all that many friends from my freshman class during that first year, most likely because the bulk of the freshman class were from different towns whereas most of my older friends lived fairly close to my home.

As a consequence of hanging out with an older crowd, I guess you could say that I was exposed to some things a little bit ear- lier than other freshman.     Drinking was one area in which just about everyone in high school took an active part in.       I remember drinking   on the weekends as my older friends would usually have some beer or “hard stuff” (hard liquor) around.         It was really easy to come across alcohol.     maybe because in such   a small town people tend to drink more because there isn’t all that much to do. I don’t think I drank all that much during high school. Compared to other people in the county my drinking was fairly mild.       I re- member on weekends going to huge parties where people came from all over the county.       Sometimes the parties would be held in houses (where the parents had gone away or out for the night), or on the beach. “God” it was fun partying out on the beach. We re- ally had some wild times at some of those parties. It was sort of exciting because all your friends were there plus most of the girls went along as well.       one point I should bring up is that boy-girl relationships tended to start pretty early up here. This probably occurred because we stated out in small classrooms, then proceeded to small high schools, so everyone sort of knew each other.   we were all very comfortable around each other, plus we all shared a lot of things. we had quite a few similarities; like, most of our parents knowing each other and that most         par- ents were involved with fishing in some capacity.   I remember many really good female athletes. It was nothing out of the ordi- nary to play a coed impromptu game of basketball or softball that was pretty competitive.

I remember one party where I got into a fight. You see, there were always lots of fights at these parties (sort of a drama thing), as rivalries between other towns would always occur. This particular party seemed to be especially boisterous.       I re- member this really big, loudmouth guy from Lubec (a slightly smaller town adjacent to Cutler) pushing me from behind (I guess because I was wearing my school jacket) and then daring me to do something about it.   I had a few beers so I had “instant courage” and recklessly obliged to fight this brute who was probably at least 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighed over 200 pounds. He looked liked the sort to have weathered most of his high school years ma- joring in after school detention.    The fight did not last long, after rapid three punches I was knocked to the ground.         However my friends caught up with him and preceded to get into a larger fight between kids from Cutler and Lubec.       The local police had to break up that fight. Fighting was sort of a common place thing during my high school years.     I can’t really explain why, maybe just the small town way of settling things.

I never personally had any experience with drugs. Oh I cer- tainly knew that they were around and I probably could have easily acquired any if I so desired.     However,   our coaches repeatedly preached to us the evils of drugs.     Curiously, alcohol was never really openly condemned, although we were told to act responsibly and not too drink and drive.       My parents sort of thought along the same wave length, as they always told me to stay away from drugs and the drug crowd. I think my parents sometimes envisioned school as sort of a “Miami Vice” type environment, where school drugs were running rampant in the high school.

I thought that my high school years were all in all pretty normal and at times really fun.   I had some truly fun times with my friends after school and on the weekends.     But my greatest joy during my high school years was playing sports.     I can remember back when I was nine or ten years old looking forward to playing in little   league baseball games. That “can”t wait feeling” of playing in a game remained deeply imbedded within me during high school as well.   It was sort of a special prideful feeling to be playing a sport in front of a crowd.     You get sort of a respon- sible, mature worldly type attitude. Sports truly gave me some- thing to look forward to in school and during the summers. I never found or undertook any other activity that could replace the spe- cial, unique feeling of playing sports. My parents for as long as I can remember always attended my games to watch.   whether it be little league in the summer or basketball in the winter they al- ways there.   They were pretty avid sports fans.   My mom used to get into arguments with the umpires if they had made a bad call. one time I thought that she was going to punch one of the opposing team’s parent after hearing her make an unsportsman like remark about a player from our team. This I thought was truly an amazing thing, when you consider that my mother is probably one of the most peaceful and nicest people on the planet.     My dad was much more reserved, at least on the surface, but he had a very deep competitive fire that burned inside of him.     He was a very keen and frank judge of my performances. I remember one game where we beat a really good pitcher (I think that he was throwing about 200 miles per hour). After the game my father@’s first words were “jeez you guys were really lucky to pull that, one out”.       I guess I looked forward to my parents offering their opinions in sports. They were very respectful and honest, and as a result I truly lis- tened and valued what they had to say.

My personality at school was fairly low key. This is one of the traits which I still retain and it sort of sums up my person- ality and approach to life in general.     I was kind of shy when among crowds or groups.     I tended to hang back and not offer any real opinions or input into a conversation unless asked outright. Today as a freshman in college, I’m not quite so shy as I was in high school but I still am not an overly outgoing type person. Certainly I am not an extrovert in any way.   This again is prob- ably a reflection of being raised in a small town environment. In any case, people some times take me not being emotional enough or unconcerned, because I do not tend to get excited too easily.

Because I played sports and made most of the varsity teams I was sort of well known and popular, at least I think I was.       You see, sports was taken pretty seriously at school and in the com- munity. As far as school “cliques” go I think that the sports or “jock” crowd definitely occupied the highest tier in whatever qualifies as a school social ladder. I was very much aware of the various school crowds. I think the small size of the school made these groups very apparent.   We had a “brainy” or intellectual crowd that I thought was sort of in their own world.       I remember feeling sort of uncomfortable around them in the usually brief en- counters I had with them. There was also a “druggie” crowd and a “tough guy” crowd. I was sort of weary of these two crowds. They were almost always seen in the smoking area and most tended to spend several post high school years in school.     You could almost see them rotting away their lives. Now I realize that most of my ill feelings toward these groups stemmed from the simple fact that I did not understand them.     I sort of had the attitude that dif- ferences were to be frowned upon and considered inferior.           Al- though I was not outright mean to any of these crowds, I thought they were weird and that I was certainly better than they were. I realize that this seems sort of foolish now, being in college, but back in high school this was terribly important.

As mentioned before, being in the so called “jock” crowd made me sort of popular, especially with girls.       I had a steady girl- friend when I was a freshman up until I was a junior.     Even after we broke up, I never had any problems finding a date or a girl- friend.   Having a steady girlfriend through most of high school certainly had a very big impact on my life.       I think I gained more maturity because of this; I certainly felt much more mature and confident.   It gave me a very special feeling to know that I had someone out there who cared for me, and with whom I could spend time with.     We spent a lot of time together, although I still had ample time to hang out with my friends.       There seemed to be time for everything back in high school.     I guess you could say that my girlfriend and I were pretty close.     We both had sex together in our freshman year after we had been going out for about 6 months.     Our relationship seemed to take on a much more important and mature meaning after when our relationship started to include sex. of course we were never allowed to sleep together when we stayed over at each of our homes, I don’t think I would have wanted to embarrass my parents or put them in a rather delicate spot. To me having a sexual relationship at such a young age was not anything out of the ordinary.     You see most of my friends had active sex lives. Also many of our parents had kids when they were in their late teens.   So I wasn’t really worried; in fact, I was sort of proud. I was however quite careful and al- ways tried to use some form of birth control, usually a condom. We had a lot of films and seminars on safe sex at school.     I kind of think they showed us these films on a constant basis due to our supposed small town mind set or mentality.     AIDS was also something that we heard a lot about although we all tended to as- sociate AIDS with homosexuals or druggies,, never as something you could get from engaging in “normal sex”.   The magic Johnson case was really a big eye-opener.   I’m sure it is going to radically change a lot of peoples’ feelings on AIDS in Washington County. one of the best things about growing up in Cutler was that I was exposed to the outdoors.   I remember going hunting as soon as I was old enough to carry a gun.   Hunting, like fishing, is very big up here. I liked hunting at first, especially the part in- volving getting up early in the morning.     When I turned 16 and had taken the N.R.A. Hunter’s Safety Course, I came to love hunt- ing with my friends and family or alone.     I really enjoyed the peacefulness of the vast woods.     Being brought up in the country I was never really afraid of being out alone in the woods.

My first experience with shooting a deer was when I was 16, just a couple of years ago.     I was really excited to be out on my own in the woods carrying a gun. I felt very adult.       It was the third day of the season, a really lousy day out, as it was cold and rainy.     I remember feeling pretty miserable, all wet and soggy. I wasn’t far from my father and two of his friends.         Sud- denly, three deer come running out in front of me as I was moving along. I was so startled that I almost dropped my gun.       The deer ran into a clearing so I quickly recovered from my surprise and fired off several shots at the cluster of deer.       I don’t remember doing any precise aiming, however my aim must have been lucky as I saw one deer drop.   What happened next sort of took away some of my excitement and brought me back to reality as to what I had done.   The deer did not die instantly you see.       It just sort of fell down, tried to get up, managed to stagger along about 10 feet before it finally stopped for good.       Even then it was sort of writhing on the ground, dying.       I was numbed by the site of it all. I couldn’t believe how quick it all happened. The whole ex- perience probably took about 30 seconds. Despite the cold I found myself immersed in sweat, and my hands shaking.         my father soon arrived and proceeded to gut out the now dead deer. My father was full of pride and his constant praise soon put me back in an ex- cited mood. However, to this day I remember seeing that deer die, and having known that I killed it, gives me a real jolt.

I have no trouble at all when it comes to naming the best or the most memorable time in my life.       My senior year at school was without doubt the most satisfying and exciting time I have ever had.   It was a dream year, a time when everything seemed to go right.   Looking back, nothing seemed to really trouble me or slow me down.     I had that unique feeling of invulnerability, as all the pieces seemed to fall into place.

The reasons for my senior year’s success and happiness all stemmed from again, my involvement with sports. This would be my fourth year playing sports, so I was pretty well known.          I don’t remember having spent much time alone that year, as I always had some sort of company.       I often found myself to be the center of things in a group.       It usually was not my style to be on “center stage” so to speak. Yet I remember not being all that         uncomfort- able about this.     Surprisingly, I seemed to handle it all pretty We won a state championship in baseball and were         very com- petitive in other sports.       I was captain of both the basketball and the baseball teams, so I was especially proud of           my team’s achievements.     I learned a tremendous amount about leadership and responsibility from this experience. These lessens in leadership will be traits that I will always carry with me.

My senior year really flew by.     I wish today that it would have gone along slower, so I could have had more time to savor it. I remember having lots of dates and having some real good times with my friends. We were all so relaxed about everything! I guess we really didn’t have too many responsibilities to speak of.             I know that spent very little time thinking about my future plans. Sure, I went through the motions and applied to college; but my real thoughts and dreams were centered around my high school.

my most prideful moment was when I was named “Homecoming King” at school. These were some really special times.         I could keep on talking for about 3 more weeks in describing these experi- ences; but it’s sort of hard to put into words.       Let’s just say that I have never been happier.       The prom basically ended the year.   I still had some baseball to play, but the prom really kind of signaled the year’s end.

That summer was really an eye opener for me. T went from a high point (high school) to a low point, where I had to really stop thinking about my home life and begin to look outside to see what was out there.   I was really surprised as to how these feel- ings came about and so quickly. Maybe it was leaving the school environment and knowing that I would never be back.           Thinking about my future placed a lot of uncertain questions in my head: What am I going to do? How will I get along away from home?         Now as a freshman I see that some of my earlier fears were not as big as I thought. However, now that-. I’m at college I have even more uncertainties about what the future holds for me.       I guess it’s a sign of maturity or the beginnings of “true maturity” that I can at least recognize these future concerns and questions, and try to see where I fit into all of it.

So ends Mike’s life story.     A great deal of condensing and simplifying went into this project.       It seems as though I was constantly leaving something out or that I wasn’t describing a particular event in enough detail.     In any event I did alleviate

one concern I had:     That being my quest to find an interesting teenager to interview.     I learned that there is a wealth of very deep, quality information in any person’s life and that each person’s experiences are something to treasure; not because they are exciting or controversial, but because they are unique to that person.

There are some patterns in Mike’s life that obviously mirror our current topics of discussion in our course process; such as Mike’s quest for identity, now that Mike is in collage away from the small town environment. Mike is starting to loose some degree of his boyish innocence that was firmly developed during high school. He is starting to concentrate on his life’s questions and goals.   Mike no longer sees himself as an athletic star at         high school.   He has come to realize rather abruptly, that he is just one of the many “fishes” in the sea. In any event, Mike’s story is a special one; a story of liv- ing   among small town values and experiencing           trades     and life-styles such as fishing that is unique to the region.       Mike’s current conflict or concern lies in the bond to his small town origins verses his future goals that will undoubtedly lead him to newer, broader frontiers in life.

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