why my heart aches for Vermont

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I grew up in Montpelier & Burlington Vermont. I am living my life in Alabama. I married an Alabama man. I love my husband’s family & I am grateful to every single one of them for welcoming a Vermont Yankee, a foodie, a farmer @ heart, Jewish, politically opposite woman into their large Catholic family. I met my mother-in-law, whom I call Mom, at Whole Foods. She had never been there. While we were looking at the produce, we came across fiddleheads…my mom Saab had never heard, nor seen, them before. I told her that they are ferns, that you toss them in a skillet with garlic, salt & pepper & olive oil. I told her they were delicious.

It was that moment, that I realized that I could explain WHO i was. I gestured to the entire store with my hands, after telling her to stop & listen. I said, “all this (Whole Foods) is what Vermont is. This place is how I ate, how I shopped, what I saw, how I lived growing up in Vermont. I may seem pretentious because I want to shop here, but it is familiar & it is as home as I’ll ever be living in Birmingham, Alabama.”

Good produce, beautiful flowers, amazing cheese & bread…everything reminds me of home. When Whole Foods came to Birmingham, I was shocked that it would build one here. The land of BBQ, fried Okra, greens & black-eyed peas. The store has been here about five years. When I go now, I see big white men in their Alabama football shirts & baseball caps, I see every type of human, I see men in cowboy hats wearing cowboy boots, rich & poor, young & old.  On the weekends, the store requires a policeman to direct traffic in & out of their parking lot.

I’m pretty sure the farmers I’ve seen in there are the ones supplying the store with their veggies, meat, honey, beer, flowers… The great thing about the store is that the location they live in, strives to support the philosophy of buying local. Which is something that Vermont has always done.

I made the mistake of going to my reader & looking up Vermont blogs this morning. I want to go home. I need to refuel my soul. When we have enough frequent flyer miles to get me there…I will get off the plane in Burlington, take a long-held, grasping breath of sweet air & on bended knee, I will kiss my home turf.

18 Comments Add yours

  1. Karen B says:

    Oh Amy, I am so moved by this post where all your heartfelt attachment to your home town just pours out of you. You must have felt so wasted and full of homesickness after writing it. I am so, so envious to hear that you have eaten Fiddlehead ferns! They are unique and delicious I understand, a little like asparagus would you say? There is nothing like that here in England, there are many ferns but they are all toxic.
    I am glad Vermont has come to you in the shape of the store.
    One of the first posts I read on your blog was when you reblogged the Vermont snowflakes…..weren’t they beautiful? Karen.

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    1. Amy Saab says:

      Tears poured out of me while I was posting the photographs. I feel as though I’ve been away at camp & missing my real life for twenty years now. There are very few people like me in Alabama. I’ve never felt I could fit in. But my husband & his family took me in & helped me make Alabama a home too. Next year we are going to spend a week there. My parents own a timeshare condo at the Trapp Family Lodge. The Von Trapps (from the Sound of Music Von Trapps) moved to Stowe Vermont & build a wonderful dreamland type place. There are highland cattle there as well as a nursery. It is pure heaven. My children want to go when there is snow b/c of all my stories of playing in it. I know I will fill my soul full of home, that i will remain sane for a while upon return. Fiddleheads are yummy, yes, they are like asparagus in a way. There used to be a restaurant in my hometown by that name. Usually they are sautéed in olive oil & fresh garlic. They are yummy. I was shocked to see them in Whole foods. I loved the snowflake photographs done by my friend Kip Penniman. I hope he sends me more photos of home. Thank you for understanding me…amazedly well. We must be so alike for you to ‘get me’. Thank you,Karen for making me feel less alone. funny that you can do that from across the Atlantic! ~may

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      1. Karen B says:

        I was up at 5 a.m this morning. I do this every Sunday because I go to the huge market in Exeter. People bring in stuff that they no longer want, things they have inherited and then there are proper antiques and vintage dealers too.
        Among other things, I bought…wait for it, a Swiss, wooden bowl carved with Edelweiss. This bowl revolves and it is a music box! So it plays a tune! It is quite weird, but lovely at the same time. But all day I have singing songs from The Sound of Music! So, you see, we were synchronised yet again!
        Your trip back homesound absolutely fantastic and I am sure you will share some of the special parts on your blog.
        I come from Leicestershire, originally, in the Midlands. There, in the centre of the city there was and still is a thriving market with all the stallholders calling out to sell their wares. I think that is why I get up so early each week to go to the market, it feels as though I am at home there too.
        My family were all coal miners in that area. If you have ever read any D.H.Lawrence, you would have an idea of what that life was like. All the wives made rag rugs and gardened and we all had coal houses with HUGE lumps of coal in which we had to break with a pick axe. It is a life which seems a million miles away from me now, but I have books in which my family are featured to remind me of it. I have a coal fire in my house, it just feels ‘right’.
        Perhaps our hearts are always a little drawn back to where we came from. But if it is any consolation, I have always felt a little bit different to others in this community. The local people prefer it if you have been born and bred here and they still consider me a newcomer even though I have been here for over 30 years!
        All that mattesr is that your special friends, like Stephanie make you feel welcome and loved.
        And of course all your followers too!
        Karen.

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      2. Amy Saab says:

        Oh, I wannnaaa go to market with you!! I am whining. It sounds wonderful! If i did get a chance to go, I’d buy to much to ship home. I love your history. I love that you feel the same about being born & raised in one place, makes you feel like an outsider in another. This is very, very true. People don’ act or think like i do because Vermont is a hippy dippy, farming, organic, natural food, farmers market, privately owned business, a place where everyone knows everyone. I know live in a place, where as soon as they hear my accent their defenses seem to come up. I feel closed off. I will go home. It may take years, but I’m going home. I do have a few friends, most are from other parts of the country & they feel the same way. I’m rambling…sorry. A bad day for me. I’ll get over it. At least my gardens love me. That is where I find peace. And of course with my children. 🙂 ~amy

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      3. Karen B says:

        Hooray for “Hippy, dippy, farming, organic” Amy. I SO know what it is like that the people you live with don’t “get” you. It is so the same for me. They misunderstand me totally. Everyone here seems to just trudge around and they don’t seem to want to be happy. When I was running the inn I arranged event, after event, after event for them to take part in. Puppet theatre, exhibitions, a Dartmoor Festival. But actually, they did not want any of it. And they think I am so strange because I like to dress nicely. So then they think, that I think I am better than them, which I don’t. So its all crazy. Like you, I am a hippy dippy, sometimes sophisticated lady who loves markets and bartering and I can get high on very little.
        But like you, I can also be brought low. Today is one of those days for me too, so I too have been in my garden. And I feel so bad that only by dumbing down and shutting down on everything other than the mud and the plants, is it even possible to think that I might eventually heal and be ok again.
        You are not alone. And yes, I do believe you will return home to where you belong.
        Bye for now Miss Happy, Hippy and Dippy from Vermont!
        Karen.

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      4. Amy Saab says:

        I’m not happy outside my gardens, Karen. Everyday is a struggle, my limbs are made of cement & everything i do takes enormous energy & planning. Perhaps I should move in with you & we can be happy playing in the dirt & behaving happy, like we hold a great secret, in front of the grumpy people. Wouldn’t that be fun. But then what? Ugh. I’m having a very down week. Very unhappy & afraid & hurting. I feel a bit paralyzed. But, maybe it will pass, if I pretend i have a great secret & act as though I will never share it. Until then I will garden & snuggle up with my dog. ~amy

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      5. Karen B says:

        You don’t know this but we just shared lunch together! Well, I ate my soup whilst reading your message.What we need is a good old chat. Well, we can’t so let’s see what we can do online.
        Is every day as bad as this with regards to the feeling in your limbs? Is this to do with your injury or something else? I don’t want to ramble on about how I have similar feelings when I am down if the feeling you have is connected with your pelvis.
        Physical pain can be so debilitating and depressing.
        Sometimes the gardening and hugging up is all that can be done and that is fine. You do about 100 times more than people who are totally fit, so even on your worst day you are dazzling everyone.
        This week, as I deal with lawyers and legal stuff, ALL I can do is my garden. You are not alone.
        Karen.

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      6. Amy Saab says:

        Oh, it is this one the internet interrupted! I would share the whys to my bad days via email. I hope to keep that thread open across the ‘pond’ if i might! I wish I saw myself through your eyes, regrettably I see myself through someone who isn’t very supportive of me. I will never be good enough. ~amy

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      7. Amy Saab says:

        I responded to you yesterday, I don’t know if it went through or not, my internet went down for a while. I can be brought low by pain & other reasons that I won’t share here. I am trying my best with the hand I’ve been given. I cleaned out my art studio to begin painting again. I’ve pushed it away as long as i could, but now I need it to become the person i once was before all the pain struck me down. Wish me luck & thank you for understanding me. I wish you were closer & but i’m so glad blogging has brought us together. I still have your email in my inbox, because I don’t want the connection to end when I need to spill my guts out to one who will understand me better then I understand myself. Thank you so much, Karen. ~amy

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  2. I could die for a Whole Foods or farmers’ market. The mountain is barren. Love your photos and narrative.

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    1. Amy Saab says:

      Thank you, Gretchen. I am very, very lucky to have Whole Foods five minutes from my house. Just knowing its there makes me feel better… its as though Vermont came to me. ~amy

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  3. Hope your plan works out and get to go home! My heart aches tooo, sometimse I can smell my city..

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    1. Amy Saab says:

      Homesickness can slam into one like a freight train. I follow all the Vermont bloggers I can, but seldom go to my “Vermont” reader to see all of them at once…due to the freight train experience. I’m glad i’m not the only one who feels it, it makes me feel less crazy. 🙂 ~amy

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  4. KerryCan says:

    I can’t imagine living so far away from the place that feels like home. I live on Lake Champlain and know exactly what you’re yearning for–hope you get home soon!

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  5. I am glad you found the taste of home at whole foods. Your children will have that part of your heritage in their daily life as well. You sound a little home sick I hope you get to visit your childhood home soon.
    Honey

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  6. Pia says:

    Now I want to go to Vermont too!

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  7. trentpmcd says:

    No offense to Alabama, but I much prefer Vermont.

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  8. sued51 says:

    Such gorgeous colorful photos, Amy. Vermont certainly is a unique place. It’s funny if people aren’t from NE, all the states seem to be the same, but I think all the NE states have their own personalities…and being from here, I love every one…:-)

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