Content and title copyright Christine Palm Shaughness. No reproduction allowed.

The Trumpeter in the Woods
Chapter Two – A Brief but Meaningful Stopover (part one)

The divorce was final in 1994 and, coincidentally, my job as Data Communications Manager at a large insurance brokerage firm in Owings Mills, Maryland lacked connubial bliss as well. I wanted out of there as much as I had wanted to leave my husband. Change. I needed a new life. I wanted freedom. And with it came the re-emergence of my urge to write. It had been bubbling below the surface for years and it was time to erupt. After a couple of months of searching, I accepted a job as a technical researcher and writer at a company in southwestern New Jersey, just over one of the numerous Delaware River bridges that connect the Philadelphia area to Jersey. Almost 2 hours from my home in Maryland. That may not sound like it’s so far away. But it was far enough to make it no longer possible to meet up with friends for a drink after work or stop by my mom’s for a home-cooked dinner – she no longer served meals made from cheap cuts of beef. I thought that the Jersey job was a perfect blend of my knowledge of technology with my renewed desire to be a writer.

My next challenge was to find a place to live. Leaving my Caper behind with my ex-husband was not an option. I’ve always criticized people who surrender their pets to shelters because they could not find a place to live that accepted pets. That would not be me! I only had three weeks to find a place, move and start the new job. With map in hand, I drove all around the Philadelphia area, not realizing that some of these neighborhoods were not safe. I was blindly looking for any place that took pets. I quickly concluded that pets were not welcome just about everywhere.
In those days, there was no Internet to do online searches. I had to depend on the newspaper and real estate listings in booklets at the 7 Eleven and grocery stores. In a town named Chichester in Pennsylvania, I found an apartment complex and met with the manager.

“I have a very well-behaved Golden Retriever,” I convincingly told the woman who was dressed in ratty, stained clothes and held a cigarette in one hand.

“Sure, that’s no problem. We take dogs here,” she replied.

I was encouraged and took a walk around what was hopefully going to be my new home. The place looked like a converted motel: Single storied, one-room apartments. The grounds were scattered with litter, clothes hung on makeshift lines. The people who were sitting on the steps of their front porches looked like they could use a trip to my dog’s groomer. No wonder the manager had no problem with Caper; Caper would have improved the looks of the place. My snobbery showed and I just didn’t feel comfortable with the surroundings. That’s the difficulty with moving to a new area – you have no familiarity with the demographics. Is it safe? Will I like the people? Did the grocery store have a gourmet salad bar?

Discouraged and on my way home to Maryland on Interstate 95, I stopped at an exit in Delaware for Chinese take-out. As I waited, I found an ad in a real estate booklet for an apartment complex just outside of Wilmington, and it said they accepted dogs over 25 pounds. This had to be the place! From what I could tell, it was in a decent area, not too far away from a development of nice houses, and there were plenty of conveniences close-by. Sure, my commute to Jersey would be about an hour, but the place was equidistant between my family and friends in Maryland and the job in Jersey. On the map, I saw that it was about a mile from the Delaware River. I envisioned lazy weekend days at the water’s edge with Caper who loved to swim. I was excited about living close to the river and looked forward to my new adventure.