When you leave Riverside Methodist Hospital and drive down E. North Broadway past Clintonville, past 71, when the lanes change from 4 lanes to 2 lanes then to 1 shared road, you turn left on Norwood Ave. That was the first drive I took shortly after December 18, 1976.
My mother and I lived in the yellow house on Norwood with my grandparents for the first 4 years of my life. It was a pretty great place to live. John and Ruth had mellowed from their own neurotic parenting days into soft, sweet, doting grandparents.
Ruth was a “housewife” and had lots of time to tend to me, as well as cook dinners, clean (sort of), do laundry, plant things—sometimes plastic birds or plastic flowers—I remember her moving plants from one bed to another. I didn’t get it when I was a child but I get it now. My grandmother was a writer. I remember her electric typewriter. She usually wrote in the late mornings after the breakfast dishes were done and the laundry started, or sometimes she wrote in the late afternoons, after her nap before she needed to start dinner.
Sometime later, she also taught grown men to read. I was learning to read then myself and we didn’t live with her anymore. Some nights we would stop by and there would be a man sitting with her at the kitchen table. Most of the men smelled strangely—like gasoline, or cigarette smoke, or some cologne that was not my grandfather’s brand. And while I was amazed and proud of her for doing something so cool and being a teacher of sorts--not "just" a housewife--I always felt a sense of intrusion. Those men made me feel like a stranger in my home. They had some bond with my grandmother that I didn’t have and I didn’t like any of that.
My mother was very young, and sweet, and beautiful. She worked at Susan’s Hallmark on Gay and High downtown. I loved her job. I love cards, and paper and books. Pop-up books were my life. I would ride with Grandpa some afternoons to pick her up after work. Downtown seemed so tall and busy and grown-up. My mother was so sophisticated—she wore make-up and nice clothes and worked downtown. How provincial were my ideas of life then? Just like today, there was little parking downtown, so my granddad would let me run in to get my mom and he would circle the block if necessary.
When we got back home, we would all sit down for dinner. Grandpa would pray “Thank you for the food we are about to receive and bless it to our bodies use. In Jesus’s name, Amen.” After dinner, sometimes we would watch a movie or Matlock or Murder, She Wrote. I think Grandma liked mysteries. My mom would give me a bath, and then sing and rock me to sleep. She always sang this song (that she made up):
Little boys and little girls go to sleep now
Close your eyes
Dream a dream, a special dream tonight
And when you wake up, the birds will sing
The flowers bloom and all is spring
Little boys and little girls go to sleep
I remember moving from that house with my mom to Canton, Ohio. I remember being so sad to leave John and Ruth and the house on Norwood.
Postscript: My grandfather sold that house a number of years ago. It was the best thing for him. But it was the one place that I knew. It was always there.