I wound up in Paddock Hills because of my ignorance.
A few weeks ago, I had set up a date to meet with Cincinnati’s Poet Laureate, Pauletta Hansel. Pauletta offered to meet at her home. I knew the general part of town where she lived, around the Norwood Lateral.
Casually, I responded, “Perfect. I think I will make my way to your house. You’re in Bond Hill, right? I may make that one of my 52 walks that day, weather depending! (This was before I wrote about Bond Hill).
Diplomatic as a laureate should be, Pauletta kindly wrote back. “That’s great. Annette. It is 1266 Avon Drive. My neighborhood is Paddock Hills—can’t wait to see what you write about it!
So many walks have been a test of my ignorance. And patience.
The past few times I had set out, rain and cold descended upon me. The day I met with Pauletta, I was wearing proper clothing, but my body didn’t feel up for challenge. I was fighting off a cold, one that I did not want to impede upon my participation in the Women’s March on Washington later in the week.
Pauletta and I were discussing a workshop we were co-facilitating for the Alzheimer’s Association. After two hours, and coverage of countless other topics, I left her charming Tudor-style home, its interior dripping in red accents, armed with some information on the neighborhood.
As a pre-eminent Google stalker, I have to hold myself back and not research too much about an area prior to walking it. I always want my perspective to be fresh, seeing it for the first time.
However, I allowed Pauletta to point me in the direction of the Avon Woods Preserve, a small pristine parcel of woods, with a few meandering paths. My shoes were muddied that day because many times, I couldn’t see where I was going and stepped off the path. The park, in summer, boasts of popular nature camps for kids. In winter, the park breeds fantastic fungus forms.
I walked a ways back to my car. My toes were cold. My legs ached. A sure sign I was coming down with something. I decided to eat at the one and only Sugar n’ Spice. I love breakfast and pride myself in exploring all the nook and cranny restaurants of Cincinnati, but I had never eaten at Sugar n’ Spice.
If ever I was in need of comfort, not just comfort food, I found it in the servers here. They gladly helped with my coat, led me to the bathroom, and promptly sat me in what can only be called a student desk/table for a single.
I swallowed their famous wispy pancakes while preparing to make a phone call. But the restaurant was busy. I didn’t bother. Instead, I studied the art on the walls. That’s when I discovered the largest collection of ducks outside of Eugene, Oregon, where our son attended the University of Oregon whose mascot was the Duck.
I sat back and smiled. Sometimes, the universe sends messages of rubber ducks as a reminder of love.
I drove home that afternoon, dismayed I hadn’t completed my walk. The next two days were filled with tasks prior to my weekend, and I did not return to Paddock Hills until the next week.
That Monday, I parked at Sugar n’ Spice and walked up Reading Rd. to Tennessee Ave. At the southeast corner of the intersection, the St. Joseph’s Infant Asylum, later changed to St. Joseph’s Infant Home and Maternity Hospital once stood, founded in 1873. According to archives, in the first 100 years, they had cared for 15,000 babies and 10,000 young women. After several iterations, the St. Joseph Home is now located in Sharonville and provides support to individuals with complex disability needs.
I continued along Tennessee Ave. in the rain, and stopped outside to watch the young kiddies in this preschool/daycare. Just coming off The March, I asked myself, had I done any good? What would I do, in this my 51st year, to help those little ones achieve their goals. Already, I was tutoring young children in the city that don’t think they need math to succeed. I don’t think they need it either, but they need to know it to move forward in their life.
I rounded the corner and headed south on Paddock Ave., meandering up and down streets, in and out of woods and gullies, and found an old PC, reminding me of my first years working in Cincinnati at Star Bank. I trekked up staircases that led to nowhere or the Avon Fields Golf Course, then circled back around to Reading Road.
That day, Avon Fields Golf Course was closed. But the course was one of Cincinnati’s oldest, complete with a rooftop garden (that’s how its referenced in the history books), so I climbed the steps, despite wondering if someone was going to come out and yell at me, to get a look at the foggy view. The view would be more stunning on a clear day. According to the 1943 Guide to Queen City, greens fees were 52¢ in the daytime and 78¢ on the weekend. That’s still a steal as a public course, but the fees now are $19 and $22, for 18 holes of walking.
On the stroll back to the car, I followed behind young African American male who was talking to himself, talking to someone on his phone, or repeating lyrics to a song. I decided he was talking to himself. And I laughed, thinking of how I used to come home and find my mom talking to herself while making beds, and now that most of my work is from home, I too talk to myself, and the dog. But the dog doesn’t listen. And so there I stood, in the middle of Paddock Hills, laughing to myself.
My final stop was near a plaque for Oscar Armstrong III. Oscar was a local fireman who died in the line of duty. A father to two children and one on the way, Oscar was twenty-five years old when he died fighting a fire in Bond Hill.
Finished with my walking work, I checked my miles. Close to three, in comparison to my walk around the CUF, and other neighborhood walks. For big, long walkers like myself, the mileage was disappointing, but the points of entry into other neighborhoods, such as Bond Hill and North Avondale, were numerous and if I lived here, I could find plenty of miles to go.
In 1903, the city annexed Paddock Hills, whose name honors Judge Paddack (note the spelling). The community here, living along mostly six to eight streets, is tight-knit and diverse. The community council website offers many options to get involved and shares comments from residents who are welcomers or thank the community for support. There was also a blurb about a lemonade and ball stand, where clever residents gather errant golf balls and clean them to resell. Reading through the newsletter, I felt transported to time of decency in our world.
It would be so easy to know all your neighbors in this enclave, and meet for coffee and eggs at Sugar n’ Spice. And then, head up to Pauletta’s home for a writing circle, surrounded by Depression era glass, red tea mugs, a new cat, and artwork of the moon.
I was grateful to be in Pauletta’s company, having found my way back to her through time, words, and our mothers who are both experiencing dementia.
In researching work for our workshop with Pauletta, I ran across my original proposal to the Alois Alzheimer Center to offer a writing circle for individuals experiencing dementia. That was long before the disease had taken hold of Mom.
I wrote: To help those “re-member” their lives through words, to think again about events, emotions, people, whether from a recent or distant past. “Re-member” – to again become part of a whole, as a member would be.
My words keep me rooted to this city, and this act of remembering my links to these neighborhoods leads me past ignorance, yearning for more (pancakes, too).
This is the fifth in a series of #GettinMy52on. I plan to walk Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods during the year leading up to the city’s 2017 election, in search of what makes Cincinnati relevant to me.