Editor's note: Fronda Port of Columbia was honored Friday at the Older American's Day Luncheon at the Florence Bain Senior Center for herwinning essay in the Howard County division of the fourth annual "Maryland You Are Beautiful Senior Citizen's Creative Writing Contest."
This year's theme was "Maryland Through Your Eyes." Editors at TheHoward County Sun and Howard County Times and a county librarian judged the approximately dozen entries.
The winner in each county or city will receive a free travel weekend in Maryland. Port's winning essay follows:
"What?!" -- the reaction is always the same.
"What?! You actually left California to live in Maryland?"
Another native Marylander is incredulous that anyone would willingly give up the fabled wonders of life in California -- for this.
This? Yes! Here's how it happened:
My daughter Andrea and her husband (Californians both) migrated here for professional reasons 11 years ago. They liked Maryland . . . a good place to set down roots and to rear a family.
My visits to them each year made me feel Maryland might be a good place to reset my own roots.
California, where I was born and spent my entire life, was beginning to lose its charm: smog, water shortages, congestion, slow-poke freeways; politicians increasingly aloof from their constituents.
Assessing my position and lifestyle in 1988, I realized I had little to lose and much to gain by moving. I bravely announced my plan to my nonagenarian mother who had lived in Los Angeles since 1922: She would sell her house, I'd sell mine, and we'd move to Columbia, Maryland.
What?!" (there's that word), she exclaimed in disbelief. I reminded her that she'd outlived most of her California friends and relatives.
We would move in together, I said, where I could help her and we'd enjoy our remaining years amidst the beauty of Maryland, surrounded by her great-grandchildren. What a deal!
Both our houses sold quickly, and miracle of miracles, the house behind my daughter's house became available.
Thanksgiving, 1988, we moved in, composing then a "family compound" of two houses and four generations. Home!
As newcomers we take nothing for granted. Maryland has so much to offer. First and foremost, zillions of trees! Everywhere! My 94-year-old mother, an artist, particularly loves the trees in the wintertime because it is then that one can see the structure of each tree, without leaveshiding the graceful branches.
We enjoyed our visit to the Howard County Fair. Instead of its being the Hollywood-inspired extravaganzawe knew in Los Angeles County, the county fair, here, was the right size to be traversed thoroughly in one day's visit. It was run by real farmers, and visitors didn't have to go past acres of glitz in order to find the 4-H Club exhibits. Refreshing!
Politics, an interestdeveloped at my mother's knee, has a character of its own, here. Instead of having to go through influential channels to reach our local and state legislators, we can call them on the phone. Sometimes they remember who we are!
The growing elderly population is acknowledged with the Florence Bain Senior Center which we visit several times amonth. Classes and concerts at Howard Community College are convenient.
Being a musician, I was delighted to discover a number of music activities in which I participate. There are countless organizations designed to fill every need. Volunteerism appeals to me.
I've learned something about what the change of seasons means . . . winterizing the automobile, waiting for the last frost before spring planting, using air conditioning frugally in summer, and getting bulbs into the ground on time in autumn -- all conditions I never dealt with before.
Season? Three months each and then it's time for the next season. Wonderful!
One discovery I treasure most is .. . fireflies, those delightful, tiny, fairy dancers. They don't exist in California.
Lovely Maryland nature. Little creatures emerge from our woods, birds visit our deck.
Although I keep looking, however, I've yet to spot a Baltimore Oriole. Uh, the kind with wings, Imean.
There will continue to be more of lovely Maryland seen through this happy newcomer's eyes.