I grew up in a military family. That meant moving around from place to place, usually every 3 years. And when I was 9, we found out we would be moving back to Fort Meade, Maryland – a tiny armpit nestled half way between Baltimore and Washington, DC. My parents had been stationed there before (fun fact: they were living on Fort Meade when my mom was pregnant with me and I would have been born there if the hospital’s L&D credentials hadn’t been stripped away due to a suspiciously high infant mortality rate so my parents braved the I-495 rush hour traffic to birth me in DC), and they were really excited to go back.
I can’t remember the first time I was taken to Ellicott City (pronounced Elli-kitt City if you’re a real Marylander). Ellicott City was one of the biggest mill towns on the East Coast back in the day, but by the 90’s, the mill had been closed for ages and historic Main Street had turned into a laneway of shops and restaurants fitted into beautiful historic row buildings. Fun fact, it’s also one of the most haunted cities in America. Most shops have their “own ghost” and will share photos and stories.
The main street area is built along a steep, twisty, turny road, with houses and buildings built in wherever the land was stable. So you have this whimsical little town with boulders and creek beds and great bridges, and lively stores and houses spanning the gorgeous architecture of the 1800-1900’s. The energy was always so good – Ellicott City is a historic town that knows it’s cool, but doesn’t care. It’s that old city charm – complete with grand department store window fronts and and old movie theatre turned creepy gift shop.
It’s a little place, but I love it.
I remember driving with mom when I was a kid, almost every weekend, through the curvy back roads and hunting for parking so she could go shopping at Cottage Antiques (i.e. so she could torture us kids). We’d drive across the bridge and under the Ellicott City sign, and I’d see the fairy lady blowing bubbles and trying to get people to go in her crystals shop (there was a huge unicorn stuffed animal in the window that I died over). I’d demand to stop in The Nature Nook so I could play with the animal figures that were too expensive to buy. I had my very first scone at Fisher’s Bakery. My mom worked at a fabric shop there called The Quilt Studio which was basically a giant room stacked to the gills with fabrics and sewing supplies. I played on the big rocks and in the little waterfall creeks. I loved to sit under the big clock and watch all the cool people reading books and smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee and I thought that being a coffee drinking hipster in Ellicott City was the highest level of cool one could ever attain*. I still crave tuna sandwiches from Tawney Town, and hot coffee from that place who’s name I can NEVER remember, but it was just before the bridge. I still regret not getting a tattoo from Bill, even though I sat with my friends who go their tattoos, and he even tattooed my brother Josh. I want to go back to the basement of Ellicott Mills Brewery with the Batman Bartender to have more nights that I can’t remember with my most favourite people ever.
My heart breaks to see the photos of the flood damage. No other town has held such a prominent place in my life – from being a little kid playing with lions and tigers on the rocks, to being an adult and drinking away joys and sorrows with friends. It’s sad to think that most of this town that I love, that I grew up with, that was so inspiring to me, is torn apart.
I can’t think of any other place that was such a fixture of my life – from a little kid playing with lions and tigers to an awkward teenager embarrassed to be walking around in public in my riding clothes to a drunk adult making questionable decisions.
My thoughts are with the families who lost everything that night. And my heart is with Ellicott City.
*still haven’t reached that level of coolness. One day. #goals