Grandpa and Those Good, Old Days
Whatever I am today, I owe much of to this wonderful old man whom I called Jiddu
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words.
This picture is of me and my grandfather and when I look at it, I see so much that the average person might miss.
I see pride in my immigrant grandfather. It's evident in his posture and the way he holds his head up high. I would guess he did feel pride in coming to America from Lebanon and settling down and raising a family. Despite the odds against success, he had a measure of it evidenced not just by material things, but by the love he had for his family and the knowledge that he had given them and theirs a chance at the American dream.
He was a hard worker, as most immigrants from that era were. And he was grateful for the opportunities afforded him from this new country.
I see trust in that little girl as she holds her grandfather's hand and looks shyly down at the sidewalk not at all sure at having her picture taken. It was probably the first and only time I have ever been shy!
I loved my grandfather for so many reasons, but mostly because he shared our heritage with all of us grandkids and he made sure that we knew and understood and were proud of where he and my grandmother had come from.
And he was just so much fun. He took me to Findlay Market on Saturdays and I would have to interpret what a "bound of bitches" were to the vendor selling peaches. He took me to the Pennsylvania RR yard where he worked as the engineer who drove the trains into the roundhouse for repairs and then drove them back out. And he always dressed like everyday was Sunday complete with a hat and his watch fob. Take notice of the Spectator shoes he wears in the photograph.
He was a character and loved to smell good. He kept 3-gallon jars under lock and key in his chifferobe where he housed a jar of pistachios, a jar of "dominoes" which were dried and salted chickpeas, and a jar of Jordan almonds. We knew where he kept the key hidden and when the coast was clear, we would gorge ourselves on the pistachios and then hide our fingers so he wouldnt see the red dye on them from eating the pistachios. I can still remember how long it took no matter how much soap and water scrubbing, to get that dye off our fingers. He always drove an Oldsmobile 98. In his mind, there simply was no other car.
This picture reflects the times. It was taken in the early 1950s and shows the beautiful, old homes that lined the streets of what was known as "the bottoms" in downtown Cincinnati's Lytle Park area. My grandfather owned 2 houses on Ludlow Street and his entire family of children and grandchildren all lived in those houses. They were 3 family dwellings and even though I was only 5 when we left the bottoms, I can remember that shared, warm, often noisy feeling of family life felt in those houses and the alley between them.
They don't build homes like those anymore. I loved the wrought iron fences which lined the streets in front of the houses and the detailed architecture and the front stoops. Inside each house was a vestibule which I can remember playing in when it was rainy or cold outside. The houses had high ceilings and gorgeous mahogany woodwork and pocket doors separating the living room from the bedroom.
The bottoms and all of those beautiful, old homes are now gone. They live only in my memories, but I have my memories and progress won't ever take those away.
I vividly remember one Christmas sitting in the front room window watching the snow falling outside. I could see it falling past the street lights and as young as I was, I felt connected to the people who came before us and lived in these houses, on this street. I could have been any little girl, from a time gone by, watching snow falling on Ludlow Street.
I have so many memories of those times. Its amazing that I do and I am so thankful that I do. I can recall every stick of furniture in both houses and where each piece was placed. I remember Christmas with the houses filled with so many people and food everywhere, carols being played on a radio in the background and my Mom and Dad harmonizing to Adeste Fidelis, and I remember the smell of perfume, pine, and food hanging heavy in the air.
And I remember that loved feeling when you're a child and it's Christmas and peace on earth is right inside your own house.