Wednesday, September 20, 2006

i was born in cleveland on april 21, 1954, the year the indians won the pennant, but, being a newborn, i missed the series which they ungloriously lost. specifically, i was born in euclid glenville hospital; euclid is a working-class neighborhood on the east edge of cleveland, and the hospital looks out on lake erie, which was called swamp erie for a while, but has now been cleaned up considerably. cleveland was something of a joke for many years after the cuyahoga river caught on fire, but we'd moved to toledo either before i was one or soon after, so i only know what i've been told, or what i've seen in passing through, in the ensuing years.

we spent the next ten years -1955-1965, roughly, in toledo, where most of my earliest memories are. i had an older brother who had been born in st. louis, and a younger sister and younger brother were born while we were in toledo. in those days every mother in the neighborhood was home raising kids and my mom could literally pick her favorite ones to have coffee with, and she did. my father was a chemical engineer, and worked at brush beryllium, but had an artistic side, and took lots of nature photographs which would turn into slide shows. We also went to mexico in a volkswagen- and though i don't remember the trip itself, i watched slides of it for years, and remember those quite well. i'd hear stories of how we went as far as the roads would go, and missed our peanut butter- and saw pictures of myself climbing a pyramid somewhere. this would then get mistaken for a memory- what was actually a memory of a picture- but i have some actual memories from this time too.

toledo was actually small enough that we could be put on a bus and sent downtown to the art museum- though mom worried about us, i think- and of course we wandered around neighborhoods freely, as we got older, which kids don't do much now. in our last year we moved to a larger house close to the university- and this is where i was when kennedy was shot- at a different school, somewhat confused by the teacher's reaction, sent home early, and hit on the head by a tomato that someone threw at me for whatever reason. by chance, i think. we were running home, afraid that the world was going to end.

my parents had white walls in their house and an occasional utrillo painting which stayed with us most of my life. they had good friends and socialized a lot, and would occasionally take us out to iowa, where they were both from, to visit grandparents. as a small kid these trips impressed me deeply, stuffed in the back of a station wagon, reading license plates, waving at passing cars or playing some kind of game. my older brother considered me a pest much of the time and would be absorbed in some book, or later, chess. the weather was highly variable- and we'd be in iowa either in december, when it was very cold and snowy, or august, when it was very hot and humid- either way, it was pretty extreme. once, driving across the flat part of illinois, we saw a tornado way off in the distance. and did nothing about it- we just kept driving. one time we went way out west, maybe to yellowstone, but i could be confusing this with later years; we stopped in state capitols like lincoln, nebraska. in any case, there was lots of midwest to travel across before we got anywhere.

but to this day i am the only one of the four, even of the family, who keeps a strong affection for ohio or the time we spent there. i'm a lifelong indians fan- though i actually saw more tigers games in those early years, influenced by a close friend- and often tell people i'm a buckeye. ohio- anchor of the rust belt- i was lucky, actually, to have a family, to have them happy, or so i thought, in most of those years- and to have the relative freedom that came of living in middle america of the 1950's/1960's. giant elms covered those streets like a canopy, and i'd occasionally lie in the grass, just listening to them shuffle in the breeze. by the time we moved to pittsburgh, pa, it was already too late- i knew who i was, and it was no longer the 50's- it had changed, unceremoniously, to the 60's.


Blogger Peggy said...

I didn't realize this but you're four months younger than Henry, my husband.

Great images there Tom. I remember Elm trees too. They were great. It was sad when they all went away. All that lack of shade in the wake of Dutch elm disease.

3:49 PM  

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