I love Maryland
By Ashley C Neyra
Love is a strong word. One which must be used carefully. There are a lot of emotions and meaning behind the word love. It is used to describe a feeling towards a person or even a pet; But a place? It’s rare to feel love for something that’s not living. To have such a deep passion and intense affection for a place, seems crazy, doesn’t it? It’s crazy until you’ve found your Rio within Maryland.
In all honesty, I’ve been trying to escape from Maryland since I was 14. I hated Maryland. I had been born and raised in Montgomery County and I very quickly became bored and tired of it. There are only so many times you can go to Westfield Montgomery Mall and Westfield Wheaton Mall after they lose their charm.
You could only go to Rockville Square so many times until you realized you didn’t have enough money to eat at half of the places there. Being a teen, you would only be able to afford the 15-dollar ice skating which only came for 5 months out of the year, even then you’d only go twice. You could only go to Pike and Rose until you realized you didn’t have enough money or were old enough to enjoy the luxury of it to the fullest.
I could only go to so many outdoor trails until I found out I was allergic to several different types of grasses and trees, but that’s a different story. I was going around in circles with these places and I wanted an out of it badly, an escape. Funny enough my escape was the place I could walk around with my eyes closed and know exactly every bump and crack on the sidewalk. That place was Rio.
When my mother first came to the united states she told me how her first dates were in Rio. Of course, it wasn’t as big as it was now, in fact, she would tell me how when she would first go it was just being developed. My mother tells me how there wasn’t much at Rio when it was first being built. It was just a few hotels around the lake and that’s about it. They hadn’t even built a sidewalk around it, it was just gravel.
I had been going to Rio since I was a fetus (quite literally). My mother would go walk around Rio with my father when she was pregnant with me. Later on, she told me she went to Rio straight after getting out of the hospital after I was born. Her reasoning was “It was a nice day, I had been in the hospital room for over 24 hours and I felt like the 3 of us (myself, your father, and you) needed air so that’s what we did.”
As I learned how to walk my mom would take me to Rio to practice. As I got better at it, I would bring little toys with me but my favorite was a little pull-along plastic dog that made little popping sounds every few steps. As I waddled across the wooden boardwalk my little dog would fall over. My mother told me how patient I was as I would waddle to it, pick it back up and we would continue to walk together and the cycle would continue every few steps. The people around us would look at me in awe and giggle at me for how innocent and cute the situation was. Not only was this the place where I first learned how to walk but it was a place where I had several firsts.
In fact, I remember in middle school I was around 13 and a guy had a crush on me. He asked me to go on a movie date at the AMC in Rio. After the movie, we decided to take a walk around the lake. We stopped for a little at the benches to look at the stars and then boom he planted one on my lips. It was my first kiss. Little did I know that I would be having one of the best nights of my life right at the hotel behind me.
When I was 14 my parents decided to throw me a quinceanera (A Hispanic tradition when a girl turns 15 and is welcomed into womanhood). When looking at venues we stumbled across the venue in the Marriott Hotel at Rio. Needless to say, it was perfect. There we hosted my party on March 24, 2018, I was surrounded by all my friends and family that night. We danced the night around and it was a night I’ll never forget.
Did I mention that Rio was the first place I drove to when I was only learning how to drive? I remember barely being 16 and practicing how to drive with my dad at one in the morning because he was scared that I might have caused an accident if I had more cars around me. Great thinking on his behalf if I’m being honest. We live not too far from the main road that got us to the house in Rio. So after he saw that my driving school had significantly improved he decided to take me to that road that led to Rio. After close calls and hard breaks, I managed to get us to the Target parking lot.
Rio was the place where I had one of the best times of my life. But it was also the place where I would have some of my worst days. I remember one morning I got into an argument with my father as he took me to school. I was in absolute shambles about it and it had to be the morning that we had to take exams. The teacher saw I wasn’t doing well and they called my mom to pick me up. My mom came and she decided to take me to Rio to walk around and take my mind off of things since the day was also really nice. We made her usual stroll around the pond and she got me some ice cream to cheer me up and we just sat on one of the benches looking out to the pond in the buildings behind it.
This was one of many bad days Rio would see of me. During Covid, I fell into a deep depression. I felt like everything around me was coming down and I wanted to escape. For my so-called escape, I would go on long drives which would usually end up with me being on top of the parking lot close to the movie theater. I would sit on top of the parking lot for hours just watching the people underneath in the cars passing by on the highway wishing that I could just escape from it all. I wanted to leave so badly but I always came back to the place that I knew like the back of my hand. Parts of me got really frustrated because of it. I wanted nothing more but to leave.
Although two years later, it’s become my favorite spot again. A spot I hold dearly. I spot where I’ve gone on fun dates and we raced little toy cars on the rooftop. Shared boba drinks with friends. A place where I and my current boyfriend have gotten aggressively competitive playing air hockey at Dave & Buster’s. All these new memories at Rio that I will forever hold dearly.
It saddens me to think of leaving the place or not being able to visit Rio whenever I’m bored since I’ll be transferring soon. Time is going by so fast the only thing I can do is just love and appreciate Rio for being the place that saw me grow into the woman I am now. I know that one day I’ll return with my own kids and I know Rio will be waiting for them with open arms ready to watch them drag along their own little plastic dog as they waddle along the wooden boards.
Photo by Rio Lake Front