I love Baltimore
I love its streets, its parks
Its rainy afternoons
When I curl up with that good book
That comes from my beloved Pratt
I love its markets
Where the seafood beckons
And its vegetables delight my eye
Where the “arabs” wander
And their calls remind me of my childhood
I love the old brick buildings
With their rounded doorways
I love the past keeping up with the new
But most of all I love the feeling
That this city is my birthplace
And all my memories are part of its history.
“I LOVE BALTIMORE” Poem by Ruth Garbis
(February 3, 1920 – July 18, 2011)
My mother, Ruth Garbis (née: Rochkind), was a gifted poet who did not take her work seriously. However, she was passionate about the written word, and would literally surround herself with books. The Enoch Pratt Free Central Library was her “beloved Pratt” as she referred to it in her winning 1985 poem.
The Library is also the perfect host site for this year’s Baltimore City Senior Citizens Poetry Awards 2012 program, which will be held on October 20th, at 2:30pm in the Poe Room of the Central Library, as part of Free Fall Baltimore and Literary Arts Week.
My mother’s love of reading began early in life: one of her favorite memories was getting her first library card as a child, in the Walbrook area around North Avenue where she grew up. Reading unlocked her from a poor environment into other worlds, and her love of learning and living never stopped.
My childhood trips to the library were adventures, and my mother used these occasions to pass on her adoration of books, authors, poets. I would not ever have asked her to choose between her books or her children; I am sure the answer would have been too painful for both of us.
Her Enoch Pratt Free Library card was one of her most precious possessions. My sister and I took her probably a month or so before she passed in the summer of 2011 to her "beloved Pratt" – the Central Library. I can see her now sitting there so raptly engaged in reading a book. The world around her stopped when she was reading. It was her solace and her way of protecting herself too, I believe. I felt if she could just crawl into a book and live she would have been so happy. She would say, "My books are my friends.”
When she passed we had a memorial service in her honor in the Poe Room in September of 2011 and there we shared many of her poems, writings, and photographs with family and friends. We (her four children) donated to the Enoch Pratt Free Library in her name and choose to create a "library card catalogue" drawer in her name. It was up on the second floor for a short period, and it gave me comfort to know I could go by and visit "her" there—her spirit tucked in her own drawer since I know she would be happiest here among the books she loved so much, and the place that gave her so much pleasure. But I must say, my mother's spirit was bigger than life and I don't think any drawer could contain her.
I have saved many of the poems that my mother wrote and read to us. Although she never pursued her writing talents seriously, she instilled a love of the arts in her children for which I am forever grateful.
Holding a poetry contest in her memory not only gives me a chance to be closer to my mother--and to the things she loved--but also to give others an opportunity that she had back in the days of Mayor Schaefer (another larger than life individual who loved this city, too). My mother’s winning poem, “I Love Baltimore,” is the inspiration for the title of this year’s event: “Baltimore: My City, My Home.”
I think my mother would have loved the event, and in many ways she remains a part of the Library today; she lives on in our memories, and her words and influence on others continue to endure. How lucky I was that she chose me to be her daughter.