I never wanted to live here.
I was moved here against my will when I was fifteen, swearing I was going to move back to Ohio the minute I got my driver’s license. I missed my friends; I missed my hometown, I missed the hills, and the way the land rolled up and down in little swells. I was not pleased with the never-ending flatness that permeates the shore. The kids at my new school had funny accents, and they weren’t impressed with mine either. However, the schools here were refreshingly clique-less, or as close to it as any school could be. In my old school, preppies didn’t speak to anyone below them. Here, cheerleaders spoke to people in leather jackets, and even me.
I settled in.
By the time I was sixteen, I was in love and expecting my firstborn son. I turned around what seemed like five minutes later, and that son was graduating from Kent Island High School, something that had not even existed when we moved here. In between his birth and graduation, I somehow migrated even further down into what I unkindly refer to as “the boondocks,” Denton, MD.
When I first moved to Denton, I was coming from Woodlawn, a suburb of Baltimore. Not really a suburb, as much as an outer city limit area. Rents were low; the ratio of foreign to US born people was way on the side of the former; skins was all shades of color; I was 10 minutes outside the city; it was my private multi-cultural paradise. I loved it. I could write all day about why I lived there. But I won’t. Because somehow, I have now lived in Denton for the past SEVEN years. And even though I never wanted anyone to know this, I have slowly fallen in love with it.
When I first moved here, it was in the height of summer. First, I was outraged when a ten-year-old tried to run off with my U-Haul right in the convenience store parking lot.
“In Baltimore,” I told myself snootily, “the criminal element was much older and smoother than that. Our criminals were way too smart to try to steal something right out from under your nose. This town was so provincial.”
Then I was outraged at the fact that every single time I turned around, there seemed to be another road shut down for a bake sale, or a clambake, or whatever it was these people did every weekend. I was furious when I came home one night, and couldn’t cross the little bridge to get back into town, and didn’t know enough about the area to know how to get back into town any other way, and why? Because of fireworks! What on earth was wrong with “these people”? I bemoaned the fact that I was “stuck” here until my son graduated and I no longer had to stay near his school district, which was the only reason I was there in the first place.
Fast forward a few years.
I had become a standard fixture at the Market Street Cafe with my new baby. Wendy and Bob called him “Counter Baby” because he sat on the counter in front of me when I had my coffee. Bob was the very first human being to ever tell that child the word “no”. (I was going by the magazine articles that said “don’t tell a child no until he’s at least fifteen months.) Thank God for Bob. I shopped for clothes at The Samaritan House, and thanks to their charitable dedication, my youngest son never ran short of clothes or toys.
I cried when the cafe had to close down. Then I cried when Mark from the post office, was run down on his motorcycle. Thanks to being a barfly at the cafe, I got to know John Draper, and his wife, Cindy, and thanks to them, am studying the art of Reiki this autumn and may be headed down a new career path.
I’ve worked at the local library for the past three years, and have gotten to know so many wonderful people there, and in town, that I can’t walk down the street without recognizing someone, getting into an argument with someone, or commiserating with someone. I hardly ever walk alone, because someone invariably falls into step with me at any given point.
My youngest, now four, attends Denton Elementary’s pre-K program, and goes to Parks & Rec’s Pee Wee Tennis lessons. Thanks to the library, I know exactly who to go to when he’s old enough for T-ball. It would be the people who live in the house who always decorate so amazingly for all the holidays. I will be able to feel safe with them teaching him, because I am familiar with them. If I feel up to it at 4:30 p.m. today, I will be walking up to St. Luke’s to go on their hayride, and Joshua will know the two girls who babysit him who will be there (met them through the library), and another three year old that will be attending.
“Why I live where I live” ... maybe I should have to waxed poetic about historic waterways, Frederick Douglass, and quaint little Eastern Shore townships. It was what I was supposed to write about. But these aren’t the things or reasons I live here. I live here because somehow I became “stuck” here. I live here because I fell in love with my endearing and charming town, and now it is my town, and my home, and even more importantly to a single parent like myself, my community.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.