When we lose a person — and goodness knows, many of us have experienced more than our share of loss during the past few years — it is said that a little piece of ourselves is gone as well. But what about when we lose a place? Can a person infuse the very walls of a place with an essence or vibe until the building itself emanates these qualities? If the person or people leave, does that essence remain, which would make the very building a sort of entity? What effect does that have on the human soul? And on a larger scale, does that cause the very fabric of a community to unravel?
The Harvest Inn was a family-owned restaurant in Eldersburg, Carroll County. The Fischer family began their business in 1966, and in the early 1990s, the next generation took over. Now it’s time for that next generation to retire, so the restaurant is closing for good.
Their announcement of the closing, posted on the Facebook Sykesville community page, elicited a flood of memories and surprisingly strong reactions from local residents, some of whom have been eating there since they were young children and are now in their 50s. Lots of memories about family meals, first jobs as teenagers, birthday parties, marriage proposals. All of that got me thinking: How much do we rely on the physical building to hold those memories? How much did the actual place shape the people who came to eat there?
Within the closing announcement, there was this sentence: “The building will still be there so you can relive all your memories as you drive by and reminisce on the good times.” What happens when the building is razed to put up even more townhouses? Because, on a larger scale, the Harvest Inn symbolized what Carroll County was all about — small, charming towns. Sykesville, Manchester and Union Bridge are among those close-knit communities with lots of agriculture and breathtaking landscapes. The Carroll County Barn Quilt Trail is part of that.
Some of the change is good. Carroll County has become much more diverse, with newer residents representing different races, religions and political leanings. And I am very much enjoying the recently opened restaurants that reflect the county’s greater diversity.
Perhaps these places are too new to have developed the kind of memories and aura that stay with the patrons of the Harvest Inn. Will it happen over time?
Another element defining place is, of course, nature. For me, the landscape itself is a living entity that does indeed feed the soul. Nature can heal, nurture, inspire, rejuvenate. I have favorite spots — a particular view, the bend in a river, that I visit when I need comforting. Such places feel like friends in a way. They welcome with open arms, they listen, they replenish the spirit. A little piece of me withers and dies as each piece of the natural beauty that so attracted me to this area nearly 20 years ago is razed in the name of progress.
Cindy Rosenberg is a cellist, writer and educator living in South Carroll County.