A quest for con­nec­tion

Af­ter di­vorce, a woman finds her place at a city farm­ers mar­ket

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Ruth Gold­stein my Ruth Gold­stein co­or­di­nates the Pikesville Speaker Se­ries, pre­sented by Friends of Pikesville Li­brary, which kicks off its 15th sea­son of 23 free weekly lec­tures Wed­nes­day, Oct. 5th. Her email is ruth­gold­stein@com­cast.net.

The Waverly farm­ers’ mar­ket pops up like a mush­room once a week in a park­ing lot across the street from the li­brary, evap­o­rates at the stroke of noon and ap­pears again seven days later, 52 weeks a year. It is part of my usual Satur­day morn­ing rit­ual.

On this day, it’s an end-of-sum­mer riot in a con­crete oasis of sound, color and smell. Se­ri­ous shop­pers dart be­tween ca­sual browsers, ba­bies in strollers take their par­ents for a spin, pierced and inked kids work their way to­ward the coffee stand, and ro­man­tic young cou­ples try not to trip over oth­ers as they gaze into their beloved’s eyes.

I stroll up and down the aisles to pre­view who has what for how much be­fore div­ing in, al­though in the height of sum­mer, “strolling” is a mis­nomer. It’s more like swim­ming with a school of fish, go­ing with the flow un­til you see some­thing you want and work­ing your way over into the ed­dies where you can tread water while you make your pur­chase be­fore you are pulled back out into the cur­rent.

Ven­dors who­knowmeby sight greet me warmly, which makes me feel like I be­long (de­spite a whis­per from my cyn­i­cal al­ter-ego that “be­ing nice is good for busi­ness”). We chitchat as I pe­ruse their wares, mind­ful of the balance I am al­ways try­ing to main­tain be­tween pa­tron­iz­ing my fa­vorite ven­dors and spread­ing my “largesse” around — a bad joke con­sid­er­ing the mea­ger size of my sin­gle-sta­tus pur­chases.

This has been my fa­vorite mar­ket for 20 years, though it’s been around for more than 30. I take per­sonal pride in the per­fumed bins over­flow­ing with nubby Eastern Shore can­taloupes, the moun­tains of sweet white corn with baby teeth ker­nels, the glow­ing piles of lo­cal to­ma­toes. I feel an in­or­di­nate sense of own­er­ship that moves me to pro­mote this vil­lage mar­ket, which has the au­dac­ity to stay open year round, is strictly pro­duc­eronly from May to De­cem­ber, and shuts down with the pre­ci­sion of a Ger­man train sched­ule when the clock strikes 12.

It must be the only place in Bal­ti­more where you can lis­ten to live free out­door mu­sic ev­ery sin­gle week of the year. Where else can you go on any given week­end and hear a solo ac­cor­dion player, a jazz sax duet, a trio of fid­dlers — even on the most frigid of win­ter days? A guitarist per­forms at the Waverly farm­ers mar­ket, also known as the 32nd Street Mar­ket, in 2012.

In the early years I came here with my hus­band to cel­e­brate food and com­pan­ion­ship. We would re­turn to the sub­urbs loaded with pro­vi­sions and spend the rest of the week­end cook­ing and eat­ing sun­shine on a plate. Later, we came just to have some­thing to do. Fi­nally, we came be­cause we had noth­ing else to do. In the end, the mar­ket was one of the last ten­u­ous threads that held us to­gether.

Com­ing back here shortly af­ter my di­vorce filled me with some trep­i­da­tion. But un­ex­pect­edly, that’s when it re­ally be­came mar­ket. In search of a way to get out of my head, where things were look­ing rather bleak, I man­aged to hit the Satur­day morn­ing tri­fecta. I dis­cov­ered one of Bal­ti­more’s mys­te­ri­ous Ber­muda Tri­an­gles, what I like to call the Three Block (Or So) Rule.

In my quest to make new neu­ral path­ways of joy and con­nec­tion, I could trek over to the Book Thing (three blocks) to off­load glean­ings from my per­sonal li­brary, off­set by the in­evitable up­load­ing of trea­sures that still pep­per my book­shelf to­day. Or I might claim a shady bench in the sculp­ture gar­den at the Bal­ti­more Mu­seum of Art (three blocks) to read the pa­per and pour my bro­ken heart into my jour­nal.

Al­most al­ways though, I ended the morn­ing by shar­ing a cou­ple of Dan­ishes from the mar­ket with E, my aunt-in-law who lives at Roland Park Place (three blocks). Our visits, filled with cards, coffee and con­ver­sa­tion, stretched into many lazy af­ter­noons. That was my rou­tine for the past four years.

Now change is upon me again. E has been ill and in de­clin­ing health. The card game, which was the an­chor of our long, schmoozey af­ter­noons, dis­solved a few months ago, and the visits now are much shorter.

The Book Thing burned down over the win­ter. Even when it is re­stored, it will never be the same, like a greasy spoon diner that gets a makeover. There was a patina of ware­house chic, dim musty cor­ners and mis­matched shelves that can never be repli­cated.

I am not the same ei­ther. I too am moving on to what­ever comes next, grad­u­at­ing with a four-year de­gree in post-mar­i­tal stud­ies, en­rolled in a master’s pro­gram in dat­ing and work­ing on a Ph.D. in life. I’m not sure what the fu­ture holds, but I do know one thing: The mar­ket will al­ways be there for me if I need it.


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