Last week, I visited Cleveland, Ohio, where I grew up, to do research for my new book. I hadn't been back in fifty years. Before leaving on the trip, I was anxious and unsure of what I would find. My dad died when I was ten, and I wanted to learn more about his younger years, and about his family, of which I knew little.
Not much has changed. Wide, quiet streets, flowering trees, beautiful historic buildings preserved as they were even though the original occupants are gone. Terminal Tower, the tall landmark on Public Square, can still be seen for miles around. At the very top, a small, modest U.S. flag flies. Lake Erie dominates the downtown, sending cool breezes whooshing through the streets and providing a link to the larger world.
With the help of some terrific librarians at the Western Reserve Historical Society and a friend who accompanied me, I learned so much. I knew Dad had been in an orphanage from a family story, but I didn't know where, for how long, or why. I began to question whether it was true until my friend found his and his younger brother Albert's names in the records of the Cleveland Jewish Orphan Asylum in 1910. "Louis G. Cole, age 9 3/4, admitted." A few words on a page changed his life; he was there for six years.
The house in which I was born, the one where I grew up, and my grandmother's apartment building were pretty much the same, though my grandmother's building has deteriorated. Dad used to take me to his office downtown on Saturday mornings and I was thrilled that the building still thrives. A frieze of flying horses adorns the roofline and scampers across the front of the white building between each floor, a charming detail I didn't notice when young. In the photo above, I'm standing in the exact spot alongside the house in Cleveland Heights in which I was born where my dad and I stood when I was two (photo posted in last month's blog).
I even met two wonderful cousins on Dad's side, whom I hadn't known existed until I began this project. The visit gave me a feeling of peace about what had been a very painful period in my life. Now, I need to put my notes together and make sense of it all, which will take some time.
The sun is out today in Washington and I hope it is shining where you are, too!