Years ago I loved to visit my grandparents in Glen Burnie, Maryland. Their home sat beneath gigantic oak trees on the aptly named Brownshade Drive, a small u-shaped street adjacent to Sawmill Creek. This neighborhood was from a small-town era. The same concrete sidewalks on which my grandmother had walked to school prior to World War II, houses of all sizes and styles with generous and welcoming porches and lawns, families that knew and remembered one another.
One year in late summer, my parents and I were visiting at the same time. Staying with my grandparents meant gatherings with cousins, aunts and uncles, and always involved food. The best was the crab feast. By this time the feasts were toned down from the carnival-craziness of my early years: lanterns strung between the trees, all kinds of yard games with prizes, tubs of beer and softdrinks, a huge table devoted to desserts, and my super-social grandfather literally inviting people off the street. In those days, crab feasts went mid-morning until past midnight, because people would get second, third and fourth winds and someone would inevitably show up with pizza after all those crabs and desserts.
So this particular year with my parents we focused solely on the Chesapeake blue crabs. The tables were covered with newspaper, wooden mallets, butter knives, rolls of paper towels - and a heaping, mouthwatering pile of just-steamed crabs, coated in Old Bay seasoning. Picking and eating whole crabs is a skill that, once learned, keeps you at that table for hours.
By the time we waved goodbye to the last person driving away from my grandparents’, it was dark. More than that, a fog had moved in. The street lamps, decades old, shone down through a filter of leafy trees and thick mist. It was foreboding. It was inviting. My mom, dad and I were hooked by the noir mood and decided to go for a walk.
The fog became so thick as we walked along that we couldn’t see more than a couple of houses ahead. The damp clung to our clothes and skin, and my mom and I looked like we’d way overdone our hair-volumizing treatments. The sounds of our footsteps and voices seemed muffled, and we started speaking quietly as if the fog were eavesdropping.
Then we came to The House.
The House, looming out of the mist, was a white three-story Colonial that had seen much better days. It was badly in need of paint and sat on a large triangular lot. The garden, relative to even the most prolific in the neighborhood, was a chaotic overgrown mass of vines, bushes, and trees that had taken over the entire yard. We could make out mounds of earth next to holes in the ground as if we’d interrupted a grave-digging convention. This was all surrounded by a decrepit white picket fence.
We were still a couple months off from Halloween, but this was the quintessential haunted house. Was there something moving, there in the fog? Yes, yes there was. It was just . . . a black cat. Yikes!
We high-tailed it out of there, like kids up to no good, creeped out and excited and jabbering all at the same time.
The thick fog still hung in the air, the tree-lined streets transformed in the heavy veils of mist. Then, we began to notice something charming: the many homes with lit candles in each window. This traditional custom of welcome was made especially lovely in the foggy night; we were captivated and the sense of eeriness slipped away. We made our way back to Brownshade Drive, eager to share our outing with my grandparents.
Our ramble of thrills, chills, and enchantment is an adventure my parents and I remember and talk about to this day. I’m so glad we decided to take that walk.
Jacqueline Denny, ACC, CHPC, LMT