It was like stepping back in time. As we turned onto the street in Norwood, Ohio, where I lived from 1945 or so until 1957 or there abouts, I had the weird sensation of feeling the years melting away.
I had just visited my friend Deborah in Cincinnati last weekend for a marathon gab fest, Scrabble, and her coaching me on some technology. and after I said my goodbyes and thanked her for her hospitality, I posed a question to my friend Dan as we pulled out of her driveway. Dan had been kind enough to agree to drive me to Deborah’s, but he also agreed to make a quick side trip to Norwood. Norwood is known for being one of the first cities within a city. It’s a city in southwest Ohio, but it’s completely surrounded by Cincinnati.
I had lived in 3 different houses growing up, but this one was the one where I had my first memories. I walked to school, even starting in kindergarten. Because both my parents worked, my mother arranged for an older girl in my school to meet me at the end of my street to walk with me. As we passed each trigger for a memory, I pointed them out to Dan, as if they were famous sites on a tour. “Here’s the corner where there was a little grocery store. Is it still there? Here’s the drug store where I walked to get a soda and read comic books on the floor and then not pay for them. Here’s the bar, which used to be called The Tap Room. I thought that’s where people went to tap dance. Here’s where my best friend lived. “
As we got closer and closer to the house, I worried that it would have fallen into disrepair. After all, the neighborhood was old even when I had lived there. The street was so rough, it felt like we were driving over cobble stones, but the houses, although old, looked well preserved and as attractive as possible. As far as I could tell, nothing had changed. People even lived in my own old house. I know this, because Dan saw a woman driving toward my house, and to our amazement, she pulled into the driveway. She went into the house and then popped back out to collect her mail. She must have seen us staring at her house, my house, because we drove on down the street, and when we came back past my/her house, the woman was sitting out on the porch steps, watching us. Dan waved and smiled, and we drove on down that ancient street full of memories. If we had had time to get out and walk, I would have asked Dan to walk with me to my school, which I had thought was a very long distance. But we drove and set the odometer, and when we reached the school, Dan said, “Are you ready for this? .5 miles.”
“Half a mile!” I exclaimed. I would have sworn it was at least 2 miles.” That’s what we all think when we’re 6 years old, and we have little short legs, and the street crossings look like crossing into new worlds.
Next on our tour was the house where I lived when I was in junior high. I loved that little house, so much so, that it often appears in my dreams. It’s a tidy little brick ranch that is indicative of my life back then, tidy, small, and yes, square. The happiest years of my childhood were based in that house—the start of serious dance lessons with Jack Louiso, singing in the adult choir, playing wiffle ball with the neighbor kids, and loving my 2 Dalmatians. It was before the death of my adored big brother and my beloved Aunt Lynn.
As we headed back north on I71, I reflected on how fortunate I am to have had the opportunity to step back in time and revisit my youth. What a weird feeling but wonderful too. I am grateful to Dan for being willing to make that happen.
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