This is my fifty-second (last) in a series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to find what makes each relevant to me. Follow me on Instagram for a hint of where I’ll venture next.
“Do you know which neighborhood you’ll walk last?” Shannon, our daughter, asked. She and I were in a hot car as I drove. Shannon had spent a few weeks at home over the summer in between life phases and had noted my absence several mornings when I was out before morning dawned. I still had a dozen communities left to explore.
But I had kept a long-held secret from her and everyone else who asked.
“I’ve known which one I would end with almost since I started. But I’m not telling.”
Shannon attempted several guesses. But she hadn’t been in my life long enough to recall all my beginnings in Cincinnati, and therefore could not accurately predict where my project would end.
My secret was this: I had saved Hyde Park for last because that neighborhood represented for me the most difficult topography. Not in hills or safety or breadth of the boundary. But in its emotional terrain.
When I moved to Cincinnati in 1989, Hyde Park had been the site of my first home. I didn’t know if I had the strength to travel back in time to the young woman I was, let alone accept where I had journeyed to along the way.
But I could no longer avoid the monumental mental task.
I parked my car along Easthill Avenue and strolled towards Grandin Road, passing a senior housing center and streets that revealed – on paper – their connection to other parts of the neighborhood where I had never trespassed.
Within those first steps, I realized how little I knew about the first neighborhood I had lived in. Having mostly traversed Madison Road during my early years, I now turned off Madison onto Grandin Road to find Springer School, a school dedicated to children with learning disabilities (I did a stint there too for WWfaC) and the 24 acres of Summit Country Day, founded in 1890 by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, where my mother-in-law, Mark’s mom, had attended school.
I continued on around Elmhurst and came upon the former Dr. Henry Heimlich residence. But then I could go no further and backtracked out to Grandin.
The Cincinnati Country Club, opened on the 4th of July in 1909, was one of the premiere golf courses in Cincinnati. They also hosted a platform tennis club, played with a smaller court, lower net, and no doubles lines (more arguing with your partner). It is also designed to be played outdoors in cold weather.
As I gaped at the many mansions along the road, I thought how foolish my older sister, Laura, and I had been, to think as we did, we could attain that kind of wealth at our entry-level salaries or in our lifetime. We had no idea that kind of money existed. We were young, small-town, and less politically savvy than my kids today to understand that kind of generational wealth and how it becomes entrenched and passed down.
I came upon a unique Frank Lloyd Wright home, once owned by the Corbetts, set atop a hillside and read later the area was being primed for nearly 20 new homes, starting at $500K. The land had previously been owned by the Barrett Family, and, per usual, wealth was following wealth. For more information on the home, click here.
Back along those streets, nothing felt remotely familiar to my time in my twenties. In essence, I had discovered something new.
I rose to the top of Alpine, then Paxton to Kinmont and trekked down and around to Linwood, then up Halpin, to Griest to Delta and Erie, passing Clark Montessorri, one of CPS’s premier programs.
As I walked, I thought about the approaching death of Mark’s father-in-law, and how I wanted, now as a writer, to be memorialized. I no longer needed the cartoons. I had grown up. My loved ones would know me in a more intimate way. They would read my words.
Withrow’s land was once a small farm, then sold to the board by Andrew Erkenbrecker, the founder of the Cincinnati Zoo. The school’s notable alumni were Rosemary Clooney (see BLINK 2017 festivals videos for her animated mural), Ron Oester of the Reds, and John Ruthven, Cincinnati wildlife artist whose work was also animated during BLINK 2017.
Now, I moseyed through the grounds and stopped in front of the tower, near the school’s main entrance, and read my way around the column. The first quote I encountered had been most poignant.
“And all who will may enter
and find within these walls equal and
varied opportunity for a liberal
education based alike upon art and industry
with books and things, work
and study combined and where good
health the spirit of play and joy in
work well done shall abound.”
I had traversed eight miles that day. I was tired. Thinking about 52 neighborhoods made one tired. I had one last mile to tread towards my car. Yet I sat longer to contemplate the quote.
Our education system should be guided by this principle, this one principle alone. Had our Cincinnati Public School board candidates and current members seen this quote? Or read this passage? Were we measuring up to those words?
Had I measured up, in this effort to traverse so many miles across the potholed back roads of the of the urban core? Had my living in Cincinnati been joy in work well done?
I crossed Dana and ventured up Madison, taking a quick turn on Vista Drive. The road ran along the backside of my first apartment, Madison Road Apartments. Yet, I had never walked up that way. I traipsed to end, turned around and marched the 100 yards or so to the front stoop of my old apartment.
I had rented a first floor apartment with a walkout patio. I never owned patio furniture. I didn’t need it with Eden Park nearby, or working hard and playing harder. Laura lived only a few miles away, off Martin Luther King Blvd, which became Madison Road. She often appeared early mornings and late evenings looking for company or coffee. We shared a lot in the couch spaces of each other’s lives. Devin, as my boyfriend, was also a night owl. He came knocking on the door after hours for sleepovers. I had often turned in for the night when I would hear a rap on the sliding-glass door. My heart raced, as did my feet, to open the door and let love in.
I plopped down on the steps for quite a while, waiting for someone to shoo me away. But no one came. There existed only the ghosts of the two people I loved the most when I lived here. Those two were gone from my everyday life but never from my heart.
Hyde Park as a neighborhood was thriving. Their community council activities were not “safe nights out” or “clean up the Mill Creek” kinds of activities. They were “cement benches for buses” and “NSP monies for fireworks” sorts of projects. Also, their memberships costs were a bit higher. Council memberships were $20 in Hyde Park and $2 in OTR. They were dedicated to the success of their nonetheless.
Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning. T. S. Eliot.
When I have driven with Davis along Madison Road, I slow the car and direct his attention to my first apartment. I become the same broken record I feared when my father did the same. I want Davis to know in that place was my beginning. And my beginning with his father. I will show the apartment to my sister’s daughter some day too. In that place, her mother and I also took root as saplings in the Cincinnati soil. We uprooted and replanted, left and returned. I am still here, using old memories to light new fires.
Stay tuned for “Girl, Walking: 52 Lessons Learned in Crossing Boundaries”, and a celebration of gratitude for and with those who accompanied me in rain and clouds, fog and sun, and early mornings, humid evenings, or late nights in person or on social media.