Our first days here, we were rather overwhelmed with tall, white boxes full of stuff we probably shouldn’t have moved, wondering what happened to the stuff we really wanted to save.
We had been traveling, eating, dining and entertaining in the city, in particular OTR, for so long, that a part of me had already grown accustomed to the yeast and cigarette smells, utility trucks rumbling down brick streets, the faces of unfamiliar people and the barks of dogs whose owners I didn’t know. Hence, I assumed the transition would all feel like a long lost glove I had been waiting to ease on my hand.
And it did, with one exception. As we walked the city streets those first days and nights, I was shocked by the numbers of people that poured into the Kroger building before work. I was alarmed by the numbers of residents who poured forth from the Drop Inn. I was stunned by the Ferraris parked down our street, a street where our children used to chide us for even parking our car, and gazing at a home that would someday be ours.
I was overcome by the rise of the Paul Brown Stadium from the pedestrian walk. I marveled at the Roebling suspension bridge. I cherished the long stretch of the riverfront that I could hardly wait to traverse with the dog, with the bike, with myself. I gave thanks for the opening of a low income senior housing complex.
Though we scolded our kids in the city to not always have their smart phones out, to be on guard for someone coming to swipe them away, I was constantly pulling out the my phone camera and shooting pictures of scenes I had witnessed countless times before. The stadium, river, parks, plaques, little gems found down an alley, a pair of pants someone had shed through the night and left behind on a park bench.
One night, I walked home with my husband from the Reds game, and the stream of fans carried me up the hill, and my wonder carried me along as well, while I continued to remark, “Stop, look at all these people”. They were here in Cincinnati, a place that everyone supposed culture and country forgot, especially following the riots. Mark shook his head and smiled. Later, my son tried to temper my enthusiasm, “Mom, chill out. You’re here, OK. You made it. We get it.”
In short, I have been amazed not so much be what we had seen as travelers into this new territory, but what could now be seen as residents with a new set of eyes. I was impressed by the great human endeavor that a city is. The mechanism called a city is not pretty, sometimes takes hard work and sometimes quiet precision. Stop lights run. People walk. Businesses open day after day. Cars carry their inhabitants into parking lots. Bridges hold up the cars. Skyscrapers cause neck aches. There is marvel everywhere.
This might be the Pollyanna view, and I may grown disenfranchised at some point, but consider how a city is built up over two hundred years. Recalling when the plumber dug up our cellar floor, we all stared, speechless, at dirt that was 140 years old. Dirt beneath these streets and buildings is centuries old.
I am practicing awe each day, at what it takes to hold up two hundred years of feet and wheels, ideas and dreams, and at the great human endeavor that is called a city.
Photo above is an art structure in front of the Verdin Bell and Clock Tower Center.