Baltimore is in my blood.
I grew up knowing that a Snoball is different from a Snowball, and that egg custard – despite its revolting name – is the best Snoball flavor by far. I grew up swatting mosquitoes at Loch Raven, heading down to the harbor with a gaggle of other teens on off-days from school, and listening to my father explain why the Shot Tower downtown had to be so tall. (True trivia: They would drop molten metal from the top of it into a vat of water at the bottom to make bullets and cannonballs.)
And although I was never a baseball fan, I still grew up knowing the difference between the “ornithologically correct” Oriole bird and the “real” cartoon-like mascot. I had an autographed picture of me and the Oriole bird in my dresser drawer by the time I was in grade school, and probably knew the lyrics for Thank God I’m a Country Boy before I knew the Pledge of Allegiance. In fact, my brother and sister-in-law met at a Yankees’ game in New York – the only two Orioles fans brave enough to stand up for the “Big O!” during the national anthem.
When I brought my post-high-school friends to Baltimore, I was shocked to see that they acted like, well, tourists. They laughed at the tiny bowling balls that we called duckpins (but we beat them every time!), rolled their eyes at the thought of the Honfest as a cultural event, and tried to talk me out of taking them to the aquarium because their city’s aquarium was “just a bunch of fish in tanks.”
But even my Baltimore-skeptic friends didn’t quite prepare me for the shock of having a husband who is clueless about my city’s history. My husband is a lot of wonderful things, but a Baltimorean is not one of them. He’s never heard of Old Bay seasoning and antiquing in Ellicott City bores him. He’s still trying to figure out what the catch is with the Book Thing. There’s got to be one, right?
So when our kids entered the picture, I knew that I would have to be the one to pass on the torch of all- things-Baltimore. If you’re a Baltimore native, you know what I’m talking about – Baltimore experiences that that you just can’t imagine your kids growing up without. The Baltimore legacy. Which is why I already have several pictures of my boys riding the iron lions at the zoo, why I’ve made them climb up Federal Hill to see the view of the harbor, and why I scan the skies each year to point out the blimp flying over the Pimlico racetrack during Preakness weekend. They’ve logged in several days at the B&O Railroad Museum downtown, watching the model trains and climbing on the life-sized ones. And when my boys get a little older, I’ll read The Raven to them and take them to Edgar Allen Poe’s birthplace.
As fourth generation Baltimoreans, my kids have a rich legacy. But who am I kidding? I’m not teaching them about Baltimore to give them cultural experiences. After all, there are plenty of famous Baltimore experiences that weren’t part of my cultural background as a kid – lacrosse, Berger cookies, steamed crabs – and I find no need to give them those experiences to connect them to their Baltimore ancestry. The truth is, by teaching my kids about the aspects of Baltimore that I loved as a little girl, I’m connecting them to a bit of my childhood.
I have many hopes and dreams for my kids. But most of all, I’m hopeful that the next time my kids get called “Baltimorons,” they’ll take it as the compliment that it is.
Image courtesy of Baltimore.org.