The closest to Normal (Illinois) that I've ever been.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Back to Cleveland


I grew up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, but for various reasons I haven't been back there for 7 years. This weekend, my sister Michelle got married, so we all piled into the minivan and headed back to the old homestead.

The kids were so eager to get started that they buckled themselves into the van 30 minutes before I was ready to leave. The dog, who does not like to be parted from the kids, busted out of the backyard to get into the car. So, pretty much everyone sat outside while I made sandwiches and cleaned up.

Despite the sporadic torrential rainstorms, the 7-hour drive was fairly painless. The kids were very busy with their DVDs and books, and the dog in his gianormous crate was completely silent for the entire trip (probably because he was taking up all the space and had tons of room to stretch out and relax).

And how was Cleveland? (And by the way, if you are from Cleveland Heights, you are allowed to say that you are from Cleveland and no one challenges it. It is not like Chicago, where suburbanites are required to say that they are from Chicagoland. There is no Cleveland-land.) Cleveland was EXACTLY THE SAME.

I suppose that it can be reassuring that some things never change, but I found it a little hollow and soul-crushing. Every 100+ year-old house in the neighborhood was approximately the same as it ever was. The colors are unchanged (or changes are too subtle to detect, like "Saguaro" to "Relentless Olive" or "Quicksilver" to "Icicle"). Also, no one ever changes the landscaping around the houses in any substantive way. In CA where people are constantly flipping houses, drastic changes to increase curb appeal are no big deal, but not so in Cleveland Heights. Most people do their own landscaping, and don't really go for anything too ostentatiously original. Also, there are extremely militant home inspectors who literally check the ratio of grass to non-grass plantings in your front yard, the height of any cracks in the sidewalk and the number of dandelions per square foot in your yard.

Now the creepy part of all of this isn't that the homeowners in our neighborhood are resistant to change. The creepy part is that these houses have had a series of owners since I lived in the neighborhood, yet the forsythias and azaleas in one yard and the miniature windmill and crumbling brickwork in another seemed to have remained, owner after owner. It is as if the people are superfluous to the neighborhood. We are just the short-lived parasites milling around in the airy/drafty rooms and down the slate sidewalks under the ancient trees.

Inside my mom's house, although some minor decorating changes have taken place (I think the goal is to "update" the interior color scheme to only include whites, creams and beiges), very little has been thrown away. In the medicine cabinet I found a tube of face scrub that I bought 20 years ago in high school. The television (the same one that I watched Hee Haw on as a kid) is so old that you have to turn a knob to make it work (and ironically, all that I could find to watch on TV was Miami Vice). The kids were delighted with the Peanuts sheets and vintage Legos from my childhood. They were also enthralled by the multitude of rooms and closets to explore. Argos loved pounding up and down the stairs, and was inexplicably drawn to the basement. As you might expect, the neighborhood is ideal for running, and Argos and I had some good runs.

The only thing missing was Grandma Dorinda! Grandma was staying in the hotel near the wedding venue to help out with wedding and visitor arrangements.

3 comments:

Kim! said...

Aapri, yeah.

mighty said...

I am the owner of the picture of Balto, You did not ask me to use it. I don't mind you useing it, but I would like some credit.

Susan said...

Hi "mighty"
I do not know who you are to credit you.(I presume that you do not want the photo credited to "mighty." Also, your link is blocked, so I do not have a way to communicate with you to ask for a name to credit.
It is perhaps indicative of current feelings about both intellectual property rights and internet privacy that you want your identity publicized on the photo yet do not want me to know who you are.
Rather than crediting "mighty" for the photo, I have replaced it with my own photo.