Adieu, Maryland

America has this smell, you know. 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!

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 Jacob and added two more, so Maryland will always be synonymous with our young family, the happy memories of young children. My Jacob is almost seven; he was two when we arrived, barely potty-trained. Now he seems so grown-up. Ditto William. And our Maryland Mary with her US passport will always be our most vivid American souvenir. This golden age belongs to 11 Nightingale Way, Lutherville, and I am desperately sad to say goodbye.

Some of it is Maryland. Here's what I love: the northern Baltimore corridors, all colonial mansions and wide lawns; the Inner Harbor glitz; 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. It's a happy thing to have lived in America, to have breathed that smell, even if it is sometimes only a dream, an illusion. The United States has many problems and her leaders do not always act in her best interest, but I wish her well. America has a friend in me.