Wednesday, March 19, 2008

round, round, get around, I get around...

So, this is kind of funny. If you ever have occasion to visit a certain elementary school library in Round Rock, Texas (which seems to be just north of Austin) you may see a black and white photo there of a young girl reading. The girl's fly-away hair is pulled back in a ponytail and she is wearing her cowgirl outfit. She sits on the kitchen floor, Indian-style, with her dad's college Spanish textbook open on a wooden stool propped up against the kitchen cupboard in front of her. Now, she can't read at all, so it doesn't matter that the text is in Spanish. However, she loves that book because it belongs to her daddy, and she lugs it around the house, pretending to read it.

How do I know so much about it, you ask? Well, because the little girl was me, over fifty years ago. How the photo ended up in Texas is another story. From time to time I have mentioned LibraryThing in my blog, and how much I enjoy it. I use the old photo on my profile page there. So I guess that is what I look like to the LT community - which is a funny thought in and of itself.

One of the many things I like about LT is the really interesting people I have "met" there. One of the most interesting is a man who lives in Texas (Round Rock, apparently) with his wife, who is an elementary school librarian. He recently asked me if his wife could make a copy of my photo to display in her library. Naturally, I gave my permission. Chances are, I won't ever see my picture hanging in that elementary school in Texas. But how fun to think it is there.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

check it out

My blog got another mention in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Check it out here: (the date to look for is March 10th.)

wanna go for a ride?

Ben and I were having a meandering morning conversation at breakfast when he mentioned something about "putting up preserves." I immediately pictured The Spider Room in the basement of our old house with one lonely jar of preserved something sitting on one of the shelves. The preserves were already there when we moved in in the spring of 1955, and as far as I know were sitting there still when my parents moved out more than twenty years later.

The Spider Room? Doesn't every house have one? Hm-m-m... perhaps not any more. It was a small room in the basement of our house on West 6th street that was lined with shelves. It was where the conscientious 19th-century homemaker would have stored the fruits of her hard work throughout the late summer months. Gleaming jars of canned tomatoes and pickles and jams and jellies would have filled the shelves of the cool, dark room.

It probably wasn't festooned with spider webs back then, the way it was when our young family moved in. By naming it "The Spider Room" my dad pretty much guaranteed that although we might open the door and peek in occasionally, there was no way my brothers and I were ever going to actually walk into the small room and risk being closed in there with all those spiders - whose handiwork was obvious even to us. We knew they were in there.

It is not surprising that my thoughts should have drifted back to the old house. I think about it often now that it is gone. It is harder to let go of than I thought it would be. I mentally wander through the rooms of the house where we live now and try to find things that we had at the old house. The dresser in my room, the bedframe in Ben's room, the disassembled crib in the attic that my brothers and I and my own children all slept in come to mind. I have Dobbie, of course, the bright red wooden rocking horse that I rode every morning when I came downstairs, according to my dad. It's not much, I guess, but I'm glad to have what I do.

I will come to terms with this because I have to, but the process may take a little longer than I had anticipated. I hope you don't mind coming along for the ride on the occasional trip into my past. I appreciate the company.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


According to the National Weather Service, although "blizzard-like" conditions existed over the past two days, we did not actually have a blizzard here in Northeast Ohio. Well, the NWS and I will have to agree to disagree on this one. There was a blizzard for sure in my neighborhood, and I know because I haven't been able to leave here in three days.

It started to snow Friday morning about 10:00 a.m. It stopped snowing some time last night. Yes, it snowed continuously for more than 30 hours. Sometimes the snow floated to the ground in big, fluffy flakes. Sometimes it fell in little pellets that sounded like rain when they hit the ground. Sometimes it snowed sideways as the wind whipped the snow into drifts all along the back fence. The point I am trying to make is that it did not stop snowing.

Ben and I went out four times yesterday to shovel the driveway. We finally broke through to the street in the late afternoon. I'm not sure why it seemed so important to do that - we can't really go anywhere. I cleared the paths I had shovelled through the deep snow in the back yard a half dozen times so that the dogs could go out. The snow is taller than they are. Lucie is not quite the springbok she was in her younger days, but she did race around the paths a bit before she ran up on the back porch to be let back in the house. Rufus, on the other hand, is the perfect age for something like this, and he romped through the snow with abandon.

We generally do our grocery shopping on Sunday morning (while the righteous are in church) but I am not sure we can make it there and back without getting stuck. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

I voted today

The weather was surprisingly beautiful yesterday. It was already almost 50° out when I woke up, and the sky was a cloudless blue. My snowman had slumped over and died during the night as the temperature rose. The backyard was a swamp as the saturated ground tried to absorb the rapidly melting snow. The sun continued to shine all day, and I opened as many windows as I could as the temperature outside reached into the mid-60s. It smelled like spring.

Today, however, is a different story. The temperature hovers around 30°, which means that the precipitation fluctuates between snow pellets and rain - yes, freezing rain is falling from a gray sky. This is all to be expected because today is primary election day in Ohio. I have just returned from casting my vote in the presidential primary election. I didn't plan it this way, but I ended up only voting for a presidential candidate. The fact is, I hadn't studied up on any of the other races, which, for the most part had candidates running unopposed, since I vote as a Democrat.

The turn-out was sparse but steady at my precinct, and I didn't have long to wait before I stepped up to vote at one of the touch-screen voting machines. I don't trust the voting machines, frankly, even though my late Uncle Virgil was a vice president at Diebold's. I mean, as much as I loved him, he was a staunch Republican, after all. I believe that I had the option of requesting a paper ballot, but I am not sure the well-meaning elderly women working at my precinct would have even known how to handle that.

I have had a difficult time deciding who to vote for in this important primary election. Although I vote in every election, I am not accustomed to feeling that my vote really matters on a national level. Today I feel that it does. I have discussed this with Ben, with Tom, and with Julie, but ultimately, I stand alone in the voting booth. (I used to love those voting booths with the curtains you closed and that opened when you threw the lever to cast your vote, but that is off-topic, I know.) I have gone back and forth - Hillary or Obama? Obama or Hillary? - a dozen times since my candidate, John Edwards, dropped out of the race. I watched most of the televised debate at Cleveland State, but turned it off when I realized it wasn't helping me make a decision.

The bottom line is that I want to help nominate the candidate who will be most likely to defeat that truly creepy little man, John McCain, in the election in November. I am cautiously optimistic that Hillary and Obama have an equally good chance of doing that, so that didn't help me decide. I have read some articles written by women who are thrilled to be voting for a woman for president, but I have already done that. Remember Shirley Chisholm? Barack Obama is an exciting, charismatic man, but really, he is just so young and inexperienced. I wish he could have waited until the next presidential election.

I am just procrastinating, really, for the fact of the matter is that I voted for Hillary Clinton. The deciding factor? Her appearance on Saturday Night Live, oddly enough. I think Hillary is in a lose-lose situation, really. She is either considered a weak sister or a shrill bitch, but on SNL she was funny and gracious and able to poke fun at herself. She won my vote.

I am not trying to talk anyone else into supporting Hillary. I am just sharing my thoughts, which I will continue to do throughout this election year. It is too important a topic to be ignored. Now, go out and vote, if you haven't already. It is your right and your privilege to do so.

Monday, March 3, 2008

no, no, they can't take that away from me

There is no longer a house at 419 West 6th Street. In fact, there are no houses at all on the north side of West 6th Street. When I was in Elyria yesterday, a thick blanket of snow covered the now-empty lot where four houses and a 3-unit apartment building had until recently stood. I was surprised at how small a space those houses and their yards had occupied. That row of houses encompassed my whole world when I was a little girl.

It was sad, indeed, to see them all gone, but the white blanket of snow gave the area a clean, fresh look that it hadn't had for a very long time. And, really, even when the houses were still there, the world that I remember was long gone. I'm sure more than forty years have passed since the last time Granny Getz walked slowly down the street, returning from her trip downtown to have her scissors sharpened. Longer still since Mrs. Pusbach moved away, telling her neighbors sharply, "Timbuktu!" when they asked where she was going. No one was there who remembered when Mrs. Seymour came every day to care for Mr. Sotherden in his little house where he lived all alone.

The overgrown, empty lot next to our house became an apartment building in the early sixities, and I remember that my brothers and I watched the construction every day. I was especially fascinated by the bricklayers. I found their quick, precise placement of row upon row of bricks machine-like and hypnotic. I can see myself looking out our big kitchen window, with its sill low enough for a child to sit on, watching their steady progress. That building is gone now, too.

Most importantly, of course, my house is gone, and I am trying to make my peace with that. I tell myself that it was really a mercy killing - the old place had looked pretty bad for a long time. And, after all, it hasn't changed a bit where it really counts - in my memory. As Kurt Vonnegut said, "The big show is inside my head." Inside my head, I am still pedaling my tricycle right to where the sidewalk ends just past Mrs. Pusbach's house, endlessly pushing my baby brother up and down the street in his stroller on hot summer days, and receiving my first kiss on the front porch swing. (Yes, I really did.) Those are things that won't ever change, no matter what stands on that little strip of land on a dead-end street.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Happy Birthday, Thomas

Today is my brother Thomas's birthday. He was born when I was two years old. Although I have not seen him in many years, and sometimes fear that I never will again, I think about him often - especially as I get older. We didn't have a happy childhood by any definition of the word, but we survived it. Somehow we survived it. Together.

So, Happy Birthday, Thomas. I will always be waiting for you.