To America, with love

Here’s what I wrote when I left America two years ago.

America has this smell. It’s aromatically neutral and you only notice it when you land at an American airport, but it’s there all right. Off the plane…sniff…ah America!

July_2008_baseball-aug-05 Four years ago I caught my first whiff of Maryland. It was a steamy summer’s evening. I had two suitcases and a bike and was ready to begin my life in Baltimore. Lutherville, actually, but Baltimore will do.

I have a few memories of those first weeks. Catching the Orioles at Camden Yards welcomed me to America at her best; a little later, the Washington Sniper welcomed me to the worst. Soon, I will be leaving for Europe, a welcome change, but one that leaves me with a pang of anticipated homesickness for the great state of Maryland.

Some of it is personal. We came here with J and added two more, so Maryland will always be synonymous with our young family, the happy memories of life with young children. My J is almost seven; he was two when we arrived, barely potty-trained. Now he seems so grown-up. Ditto W. Our Maryland M with her US passport will always be our most vivid American souvenir. This golden age belongs to Nightingale Way, Lutherville, and I am desperately sad to say goodbye. July_2008_west-virginia-autumn

Some of it is Maryland. Here’s what I love: the northern Baltimore corridors, all colonial mansions and wide lawns; the shiny Inner Harbor; the rolling hills of Appalachia; the feeling of freedom as you escape over the Bay Bridge to the Eastern Shore; the rickety boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach (Delaware, but close enough); the proximity to legendary places like DC, Philly, New York.

I have grown fond of Maryland, of America. When the sun shines on Americans, I think they have the best life in the world. I drove down the mainstreet of Myersville, Maryland yesterday (a town at the foot of the Appalachian Trail) and felt a nostalgia for something I have never even experienced. I thought of prom queens and summer parades, ice cream and barber shops. For four years, these happy dreams drifted by, sometimes lived, other times admired. It’s a good thing to have lived in America.

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Comments

  1. Peter LLC says:

    Shucks, Ronan, you almost make me homesick. But then I remember that I grew up a lot closer to Barstow than Maryland, and the pangs evaporate like a Diet Coke spilled on the parking lot of Bob’s Big Boy in Baker on a July afternoon.

  2. Randall says:

    Ronan,
    Thanks for your warm thoughts for my beloved country. Never perfect, but home.

  3. Thank you for this nice tribute to Maryland and America. I grew up in the DC suburbs (Silver Spring and Potomac) but I have fond memories of going to the National Aquarium in Baltimore and walking around the Inner Harbor with my family.

    You’ve made me quite homesick for my home state!

  4. Have you ever been to the midwest or the west coast, Ronan?

    I think I remember this post when you originally made it. Time flies.

  5. Susan,
    Yes. Let’s see:

    In the west –

    Washington
    California
    Arizona
    Nevada
    Wyoming
    Colorado
    Utah

    Only Michigan in the midwest. I’ve been to most of the eastern states. My favourite was New Hampshire in the summer, and Florida in the winter (of course!).

  6. Ah, Ronan, thank you for a lovely tribute. I love that two of your children have dual citizenship- what a nice souvenir.

  7. Have you been back since you wrote this?
    We lived in the DC area during the summer of 2001, it was beautiful (as I’ve lived in AZ or UT for most of my life)
    Your writings make me want to visit again.
    Thanks.

  8. Yes, I was in the DC area in November 2006 (not the mid-Atlantic’s finest season) and will be visiting Baltimore again soonish.

  9. Thanks for that sweet tribute, Ronan. You’ve just covered a multitude of sins.

  10. Thank you Ronan for your sweet words. Have you ever thought about visiting further down in the southeastern US?
    I am very partial to the south.

  11. I’m trying to decide if you meant you enjoyed the smell of Baltimore in the sweltering summer heat…? Your post is admirably complimentary to the ‘armpit of the east coast’ (you must be a ‘glass half full’ type) and while I admit that I look back on my 4 years there with a variety of emotions, the stink of downtown Baltimore in the summer time is definitely NOT one of my happier memories!

  12. Antonio Parr says:

    Marisa:

    To paraphrase the Book of Mormon (Alma 19:5), others say that Baltimore is dead and that it stinketh . . . but as for myself, to me it doth not stink. (I think that Ronan has captured the charm of the place quite nicely — well done, ‘hon!)

  13. Mark Brown says:

    Ronan, I think it takes a particularly admirable type of chutzpah to wear a Manchester United shirt to an Orioles’ game.

  14. #13 – It’s an England shirt – not ManU! Ronan’s a faithful Everton supporter!

  15. Mark Brown says:

    Yikes! My mistake. You’re right Rebecca, that is a shirt from the England national team. Which means RJH has even more chutzpah than I originally assumed, but that’s why we love him, right?

  16. Mark,
    I seem to remember picking my nose all through the national anthem that night.

    Marisa,
    No! Bawlmer is a charming place. Loved it.

  17. Mark Brown says:

    I seem to remember picking my nose all through the national anthem that night.

    I can live with that. But if you did that during the seventh inning stretch when everybody stands and sings Take Me Out to the Ballgame, you are dead, dead to me.

  18. But Mark, the O’s were such abject losers that any effort at merriment was shallow and lame. If the O’s were a British soccer team, we would have foregone cheery songs for throwing coins at the players.

  19. John Mansfield says:

    “… and will be visiting Baltimore again soonish.”

    That hints at a coming milestone worth celebrating.

  20. Depends on the ishiness of ish…

  21. Left Field says:

    Ok, I will admit that the Orioles have taken a downturn in recent years (curse you, Jeffrey Maier!), but I take comfort in the fact that the Yankees (still floundering for their first World Championship this century) are losers no matter their W-L record.

  22. I left India for America ,and have never returned. I am kinda sorry that I never had any good experiences in the country of my birth, that would make for even the smallest pangs of nostalgia.

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