Going To Grandma's House
This is a picture of the apartment building my maternal grandparents lived in back in the mid to late 50s and into the mid 60s. Its located, still, on what is known as Sycamore Hill in Cincinnati Ohio. Its an old neighborhood and in its heyday, the houses and structures were enviable. Nowadays, its fallen into disrepair and is a mere shadow of its once grander self.
But, that doesnt matter because my memories have still retained the beauty and charm of that old neighborhood where my sweet Grandma lived. Her picture is posted here as well.
As a little girl, in the late 50s and very early 60s, I would go with my Mom and Dad on Friday nights and we would pick up my grandma Russell and take her grocery shopping. She was old by then, easily in her 70s and my grandfather was blind. So getting to the grocery store wasnt easy for her.
We would go to the store, down on Liberty Ave. and then my Dad would unload the car and we would carry her bags up 2 flights of steps to her apartment. Mom and Dad would leave and I would stay the weekend with Grandma.
I loved that apartment! Looking back Im not sure why I did because it was very dark and even foreboding. But as a child, I didnt notice those things. I just knew that I got to spend time with my grandma whom I loved very much. Coming from suburbia, where I lived, into what was considered "the city" was kinda exciting in those days.
The kitchen was huge and it had a big butler pantry and windows that opened up to the fire escapes and in the summer, she would let me crawl out and sit on that fire escape. On Saturday mornings, she would almost always make a pot of some sort of soup. She always gave me the peelings from the vegetables and if there was any fat or gristle from the meat, I got that too and I would make my own "pot of soup". Her soup always seemed to smell better than mine and I never remember actually eating my "soup" but the memory of those little pots of soup and Grandma showing me how to stir it and add seasonings to it are as fresh in my mind as yesterday.
Grandma loved to write stories and poems. I think that sometimes I inherited my love of writing from her. She would sit at that big, old heavy wooden kitchen table, always covered with an oil cloth, and write. I can still see her sitting there with a pencil in her hand writing down her thoughts and memories. I often wonder whatever happened to all those stories she wrote. She was a simple woman from a simpler time, but I know that her emotions and feelings ran deep because I read some of her stories. They told of her childhood in Kentucky and of how hard her life was back then and how poor they were, but also of how much love there was in her family.
Her bedroom held her life. There was a big bed in the middle of the room and a small TV on a cart and several nightstands and only one window which looked out into a courtyard. There was also a beautiful, old fireplace, not used in ages, but a mantle that replicated the beautiful architecture of that building.
But the prize of her room, the reason I loved being with my grandma, was her dressing table. It was off limits to me unless I asked and then only if she was close by. She had a beautiful mother of pearl hairbrush and mirror set and a mirrored tray which held her most precious possession....a bottle of Evening in Paris perfume. She loved it and wore it sparingly and if I had been especially good, she would take the stopper out and put the tiniest bit of it behind my ears. I was in awe of this part of my Grandmother's life because it was part of her life from a long ago time when I imagined she was a young girl, full of hopes and dreams and looking forward to her future. It was a part of a life I had never seen and knew nothing about and it made me yearn to know more about her.
I had very long, curly hair as a young child and she would often sit me down on a stool in front of her and she woud take that beautiful hairbrush and brush my hair. Her touch was soft and gentle as tho she were stroking some prized possession as she ran that brush thru my hair. I never remember Grandma getting cross with me or impatient and she seemed to love everything about me. Perhaps in my little girl way, I imagined that, but its a comforting thing, as a child, to know that you matter to your grandma.
She also had a jewelry box. I am sure that there was nothing of great value in it, but nonetheless, it held baubles and bangles that meant something to her. There was a pot of rouge and a small, red, plastic box of Maybelline cake mascara with a tiny little brush inside. Im not sure when she ever wore makeup in those days and maybe they were leftover from another time, but I loved that my little grandma, once had enjoyed being feminine and pretty and smelling nice.
It was heady stuff for a little girl who only saw her grandma dressed in old, black house dresses and black "nuns' shoes for most of her life.
I slept in her bed with her all those times and when I was scared of the boogy man coming thru that window, she would hold me and cuddle me and sing songs to me until I fell asleep. Looking back, I dont think I ever felt safer.
We would lie in bed and watch TV together. She loved Lawrence Welk (who didnt back then?) and the Honeymooners.
Grandpa spent most of his days in the "front room". He was completely blind but could manage around the apartment. He went out occasionally, but most of his life, at that point, was spent in that apartment with his radio. Ironicially, that front room had the most natural light of all the rooms in that apartment and while I hate to say that it was wasted on him...it basically was. If you look at the picture, you can see the bay window to the left on the top floor. That was where my grandfather lived his life.
I wasnt afraid of him, but he could be gruff. Especially when he heard Waite Hoyt on the radio doing the Reds play by play. My grandfather knew Waite when they were both younger and grandpa said that they had a falling out..over what I dont know. But when the Reds were on radio, in those days it was ALWAYS Waite Hoyt and that meant you could hear my grandfather cursing all over the apartment, calling Waite Hoyt every name in the book.
Grandma was the reason I would go there and she was the reason I loved it when I was there.
Every child should have special memories of their grandparents. I was lucky enough to have that, so I thank my grandma, Susan Russell, for those long ago days of soup fixing and fire escape sitting and walking down Sycamore Hill to visit Mrs. Blackburn. And I thank her for being loving and kind and letting me play with her makeup.
She died in 1971, just after I got married. She had a tough life. Tough the way we, today, would buckle under. In all my years, I never heard her complain. They were made of tough stuff in those days. I wish I could tell her how much she impacted my life, but I think she probably knows.
I love you, Susie Russell