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  • Writer's picturemeredithjohnson

A Love Letter to Maryland

One year ago this month, I received an e-mail sharing that I'd been chosen as one of the winners for the Maryland Writer's Association's short story contest. It's hard to describe how excited I was. Never before had anyone said they wanted my writing let alone something they wanted to publish. It's been incredibly fun over the last year talking with people about my journey, what inspired the story, and feeling a sense of accomplishment. It's only one story in one book, but the confidence it gave me to finally call myself a write has been priceless.

For those who have not read it yet, I wanted to share the story with you here on my blog. If you like it, let me know! If you really like it, feel free to purchase the entire book and read some of the incredible stories written by 29 amazing writers. You can find it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

I give you A Love Letter to Maryland:

A Love Letter to Maryland

The rain was falling hard, increasing the chill Emma felt from the fall weather that had finally settled in. It was October, her favorite time of year. The summer seemed to be prolonged by the never-ending heat of September and she was glad to be back in sweatpants enjoying a cup of hot tea. The storm would last off and on all weekend according to the weather man, and that was just fine by Emma who hadn’t made plans anyway. The summer had kept her busy. Between trips with her best friends and the trips she and her husband made, there hadn’t been a moment to sit and relax. Not that she was complaining. All of it had been fun and memorable. Her husband Ryan had been traveling for work during the month of June, so she and her friends decided to go on a girls’ trip.

Money was tight for all of them and so they decided to have a staycation of sorts by only traveling to places in their home state of Maryland. Looking out her window now at the rain and leaves, Emma remembered the warmth of the sun as they started their adventure. Ocean City was the first place on their list. Emma smiled as she remembered riding over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, windows down, music loud, and the summer ahead of them. They stopped just over the bridge at a local tiki bar to enjoy lunch. Emma was happy to just sit and stare at the beautifully calm water with the bridge in the background. Now that she thought about it, Maryland had plenty of water views that were equal or even more amazing. Throughout their trip she and her girlfriends had explored the entire Eastern Shore—the beaches of Ocean City, cruising the Maryland waterways in an old steamboat, out to Smith Island for crabs and their famous Smith Island Cake, St. Michael’s for shopping, and revolutionary style history in historic Chestertown. The views in every county they stopped in were breathtaking. Emma hadn’t realized until that moment that there was so much about her home state that she didn’t know; nevertheless, she was determined to see it all.

Back in her apartment, the rain was finally starting to subside, making Emma hopeful that the Orioles game would not be delayed or canceled. She turned on the TV to find that it had been delayed by two hours. Sighing, she turned it off and went outside. “Guess we’ll have to find something else to do until game time,” she said to Mugsy, her little terrier. She and her husband lived in Baltimore City and, as huge Orioles fans, missing a game was not an option. She stepped out onto her balcony, the air smelling of fresh rain. “It’s so pretty,” she said to herself. She truly loved the state of Maryland. Ryan had taken her on a surprise visit over the summer to other parts of the Old-Line State she had never seen before. They’d taken a long weekend to explore Central Maryland including a visit to Glen Echo Park and the famous Dentzel Carousel. What Emma hadn’t expected was to find so much history and culture along the way. She learned there was a rich transportation history—railroads in Carroll County and trolleys in Montgomery County. There were natural parks to discover with boating, fishing, and hiking. The views there were stunning and the variety of wildlife surprising.

She and Mugsy walked to their favorite dog park not far from their apartment. When she let him go, he ran with his tongue hanging out of his mouth. He would love to visit the openness of our state parks, she thought, as she watched him run. Maybe they’d move out there one day. Mugsy’s running crunched the leaves around them and reminded Emma of the trip she and her mom had taken to Western Maryland late in the summer. It had been dry and leaves were starting to fall in the western counties. Some had even started to turn colors. She and her mom planned to visit all four counties and experience something in each one over the span of four days. As with Central Maryland, it was amazing the amount of rich history and beautiful scenery that awaited them. They started in the town of historic New Market in Frederick. The little town was nestled among the vast rolling hills of northern farmland. Shopping for antiques was a must and the shops in town did not disappoint. Did she really need ten antique books and a 1950s Radio Flyer Wagon that she purchased their first day? No, but after seeing them she couldn’t live without them.

The next day, heading west, the two ladies were amazed when they stopped to rest at Sideling Hill in Washington County. They stared at the man-made mountain pass that exposed layers and layers of rock, a geologist’s dream. Emma and her mother knew nothing about geology, yet there was something beautiful about the colors hidden inside the mountain. Emma remembered driving through the rest of Western Maryland in awe of the height and beauty the mountainous terrain provided. State parks, forests, and lakes were abundant and ready for she and her mother to explore. As avid hikers, they were in heaven. The last day of their trip they explored the C&O Canal National Historic Park in Garrett County. Emma’s mother was very intrigued by the history they learned there because her ancestors had worked the C&O long before.

Rain clouds were forming again as Emma and Mugsy walked home. She looked up at the sky and said, “we better get home fast little pup.” They ran up the steps to their apartment building just as the first raindrops fell. At home, Emma walked into her library and pulled out two books she had been given for Christmas last year. They represented both Maryland’s military and maritime history, two of her favorite subjects. The small state’s historical significance was not lost on Emma; she had studied it extensively in college at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Her love of history took her to many places in Maryland that summer. She had taken a weekend to visit Concord Point Lighthouse, built in 1825 in Havre de Grace, to learn more about its significance during the antebellum period. Looking through her maritime history book, she saw pictures of Solomons Island and remembered fondly a visit to her friend that included a tour of the Calvert Marine Museum where she discovered a wealth of information on fossils and the area’s maritime history.

Looking out her library window Emma could see the rain still falling heavier than it was before. She looked at her watch. “I guess the game will be completely canceled now,” she said as Mugsy jumped into her lap. Sinking deeper into her over sized chair, she began to read the book she treasured most, A History of Maryland. The book covered the history of her great state from its inception to present day with beautiful pictures spread out through its pages. Emma turned to the pages describing Maryland’s birth in Historic St. Mary’s City. She had been to the living museum numerous times during her college years. The grounds around the city were quiet with knowledgeable interpreters spread throughout. It was beautiful. Turning the page again, she found a picture of Surratt House in Prince George's County. It was home to Mary Surratt, accused conspirator in the assassination of President Lincoln. Civil War history is prevalent throughout Maryland and Emma had been to Surratt House a couple times to learn as much as she could. She turned the page one more time to find a picture of the Maryland State House in Annapolis. It made her think of her favorite time period in Maryland, the Revolutionary War. Throughout the state it was easy to find areas that had a history with the founding of the United States. Places like Rodgers Tavern in Perryville, where revolutionaries such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson visited, and small seaport villages such as Port Tobacco in Charles County. Even the State House contributed to the history of the nation as the place where George Washington resigned his military commission.

Emma stood and stretched. Feeling the need for fresh air, she walked into her room and out onto the balcony, stopping to watch the late afternoon shadows dance over the buildings of Baltimore City. The rain had subsided, making way for a potentially gorgeous sunset. Emma leaned on the railing reliving the memories she had been playing in her mind all day. Maryland was her home and she loved its history, beaches, seafood, mountains, small towns, shopping, waterways, sports, nature, culture, and cities. It was truly a summer well spent. The sound of a distant click coming from the front door pulled Emma from her thoughts. Mugsy barked and ran toward the door. “Emma?” her husband Ryan called. “On the balcony,” she answered. A few minutes later he appeared, two cups of coffee in his hand. Putting his arm around her he stared at the sunset and said, “It’s a beautiful sunset tonight.” She smiled and said, “It is.”

The End

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