Essay for WSCL 89.5 Public Radio Delmarva

Why I Live Where I Live

I grew up in Howard County, Maryland, during the era I call “B.C.” (Before Columbia). For nearly four decades, my firsthand knowledge of the Delmarva Peninsula consisted of mailing Christmas cards to an aunt who lived in St. Michaels, and being able to locate a handful of acceptable rest stops on my annual trips to the beach.

I’d never given any thought to actually living on Maryland’s Eastern Shore until my husband changed jobs and we made the move from Baltimore County more than twenty years ago.

Observations about the Eastern Shore can earn check marks in either the plus or the minus column. Lines are shorter. People friendlier. Weather milder. Check. Check. Check. More beautiful sunsets. More stars in the sky. More wildlife in the backyard. Produce stands operating on the honor system. All check marks on the plus side.

However, everyone’s related to everyone else, so you’d best watch what you say and to whom you say it. So, that definitely goes in the other column, along with beach traffic and recipes for muskrat.

I became bilingual when our house in Caroline County was built by some carpenters from southern Delaware. I learned that what they were building for us was actually called a “howse” and they arrived each morning in their “truuuck” in which they sometimes brought their “doeg.” One of the tools they used was a “squire” which helped them draw straight lines on the “bards” while the electrician “warred” our “howse.”

It didn’t take long to realize I wasn’t in Baltimore anymore. When I drove to the Greensboro post office to pick up our mail, the clerk often met me in the parking lot with a smile on his face and our mail in his hand. In our community, we were known as the people without a truck, and ours was known as “the house with the blue carpet.”

On a trip to downtown Denton, I could leave my car for service at the gas station, walk to the bank, the library, the pharmacy, and the offices of our lawyer, insurance agent, and accountant. Parking meters took nickels. Some of the library’s reference books were so quaint, the index showed only one President Roosevelt.

One of our favorite places to eat displayed the day’s specials on a torn manila folder taped to the front window. The owner did the cooking and his wife waited tables. Everyone used first names and none of the silverware or dishes matched. The food was tasty, abundant, and inexpensive.

After having three houses built in Caroline County, we decided a change was in order and moved to Cambridge nearly four years ago, where we’ve experienced a new list of unique experiences.  Our neighbor’s cat died while they were on vacation, and our mailman buried it in their yard. I do volunteer work, attend exercise classes, and vote in the local elementary school. I have no excuse to miss any of those activities. The school is a half-mile from my house; I could crawl there.

Twenty-one years ago, my friends on the Western Shore had asked me where I’d work after I moved to the Shore. At the time I feared my choices would be a career picking crabs or plucking chickens. Luckily, it turned out I didn’t have to interview for either job because I was able to continue pursuing my dream of becoming a published author.

For several years, I wrote freelance articles for local and regional magazines and newspapers, and now have had four of my novels published. Whether researching local history or interviewing residents of Delmarva, I continue to be amazed at the rich heritage and unique characters on the Eastern Shore that I’m happy to call “home.”

Aging: Plusses and Minuses

I recorded an essay on aging for WSCL Public Radio. You can listen to the essay by clicking the button below.