I’m writing this from Port St. Lucie, Florida. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Florida’s geography, as I am, Port St. Lucie is less than an hour from West Palm Beach and about two hours from Orlando. A short car trip could get you to a half-dozen famous beaches, the best seafood on the east coast, or to Harry Potter World. It’s eighty degrees right now. I went swimming twice yesterday.
But I miss the heck out of Maryland.
I’m here for a family vacation with Sara and my dad. Dad’s family—four kids and my grandmother—moved from New Jersey to Florida when he was about ten years old. He, my Uncle Tom, and Aunts Cookie (Celia, though I think it’d be hilarious to legally name a child ‘cookie’) and Diane spent the better part of their childhoods in Florida; only Cookie and Grandma live in the sunshine state today.
But whenever we come down here for these little family get-togethers, my dad says he’d be more than content to live in Florida again. And most people wouldn’t blame him. Who wouldn’t want to live in the land of fishing and palm trees? Of relaxation? I don’t know how many of you have been to Maryland, but it’s not generally considered a ‘relaxed’ state. The constant buzz of DC controls much of the state. Out-of-state visitors think we’re all greedy government workers. We have four distinct seasons whose lengths aren’t exactly even. Our state taxes are outrageous. People in the western part of the state blame the overly-populated and notoriously-troublesome cities of the east for all of Maryland’s problems; the eastern part of the state paints westerners as rednecks who want to start an angry recession movement. We were the state that originally housed the snakefish, for Peter’s sake. The thing can walk on land.
Believe me, it’s not all bad. Not by a long shot. My birth certificate says Virginia, but I’ve spent all but one of my years in Maryland. I grew up in the western part, where the hills roll and the ‘cities’ are easily navigable. A year of school in Baltimore has reminded me of the charm of the city and the pride of the people that live there. Maryland is home to the United States Naval Academy and The Johns Hopkins University (places that are worth visiting, if you have the time). It’s the home of Old Bay and the best place to get blue crab. We’re the home of Franceis Scott Key, the author of the poem that evolved into our National Anthem. Our state sport is jousting. Our state song is set to the tune of a Christmas song. And you know what? Our flag kicks all other state flags into the dust.
I love Maryland. I’d pick it over Florida eight days a week. The land is too flat here, and only my one-quarter-Puerto-Rican blood keeps my skin from being burnt to a crisp. But I didn’t grow up here. I slam dad for picking this swamp over Maryland, but it occurs to me that he sees more in this place than I do. He has a reason to take pride in it.
In a country like the US, where there are so many sub-cultures and so much movement, home state pride is incredibly important. If we all wanted to live in Disney World—er, I mean Florida—we’d have one hell of a congested state and a lot of wasted opportunities. Be proud of where you’re from, no matter what everyone else thinks of your state. It’s your state. You only get one. State loyalty has defined history—just ask General Lee (note: I am not advocating civil war—be proud in some less-lethal way).
I love Mickey Mouse. I could eat shrimp every day of my life. But as always, I’m counting the hours until I’m back in the Old Line State—until I’m home.
Thou wilt not cower in the dust,
Maryland, my Maryland!
Thy beaming sword shall never rust,
Maryland, my Maryland!
Remember Carroll’s sacred trust,
Remember Howard’s warlike thrust,
And all thy slumberers with the just,
Maryland! My Maryland!
“Maryland, my Maryland” written by James Ryder Randall, 1861