Ruth’s Journal “All The Places I Have Lived”


Unexpectedly found my mom’s writing behind a book on a shelf today. She’s been dead almost 10 years, so finding her journal seems really special. Ruth wrote about the house and the 1.5 acres of land where she grew up … in Cincinnati, Ohio. Born in 1917, it was quite a year, World War I included. She remembering this all nearly 90 years later, in 2007.

Here is what she wrote (in very beautiful cursive, a thing of the past, oops, Ohio is teaching it again, interesting):

4741 Guerley Road, Cincinnati Ohio. (I googled it. It’s still there. The driveway is paved now, that would probably please Mom.)

Born here. 4/13/1917. House built for Mother and Dad about 1914. 1 1/2 acres, house 75' from road. Barn, never painted, built by Grandmother Boyer. Grandparents sold farm and lived her also until I was born. 4 bedrooms, center hall, bathroom on 2nd floor. Small kitchen, breakfast room, dining room, center hall, living room 30'x20', porch 30'x 12', on east side, later became sunroom. House faced north. Full basement, 2 windows (full sized) and door on south wall. Imagine remembering this much detail.The journal made me think about the house I first lived in, Glen Ellyn, IL, so I googled it and found it still there, 1956–1962 we lived there. Basement: coal furnace, coal room, toilet and shower, Dad’s workbench with tools, 2 wardrobes, part of Boyer furniture, each had a closet type door, 2 drawers on the bottom of wardrobe. Shelves on top of closet compartment. Quite large, about 9'high. There were two more of these in the barn.

The barn had a carriage room, a sliding barn door and 2 windows on one side. A central open staircase with a rough railing; that side of the barn had 2 windows, barrels containing chicken feed. When I was little, the stairs railing was wired by my brother to give one an electric shock when grasped. The carriage side held 2 more wardrobes which were filled with play or dress up clothes and hates and shoes, which Alice and I dressed up with and paraded around the yard. Alice was a couple years older than Mom.

There was another curiosity there, a rosewood square piano going to pieces. I have never known its history. We had a Baldwin upright in the living room, later replaced by a Baldwin “baby” or studio grand. This square piano was later taken off by a friend who was a cabinet maker. I think he was married to Sylvia Panzer. He made a table out of the top and was thrilled to get it. anyway, upstairs in the barn was a collection of horsehair stuff furniture, very prickly to bare legs and some marble top tables. Also, on the south end, a boxlike arrangement for the pigeons. They entered and exited through an opening in the wall. There was a perch nailed outside for a landing strip. Baby pigeons are very ugly and the box had an unpleasant odor.

She remembers the barn with such clarity!

There were two ponds where my dad dammed up the creek. Willow trees grew around the edges of the ponds. Forget-me-not plants flourished in the water. Where Mother put excess goldfish in, they turned into common carp after a while. There were a lot of trees there, maples, walnut, bushes, flowers. Mother and Dad studied nursery catalogs each spring and always planted a lot of growing things. I like to think this hobby made them very happy. Mother never rode out into the country side without bringing back some cuttings. Everything grew for her. In her older years, she was disappointed that the rhododendrons and magnolias and apricot trees she brought back from southern parts did not do well in Ohio. She knew the names of everything, usually the botanical name also.

There was a curved sloping sidewalk from the gate to the house that I liked. When it was spring and raining, the smell of the lilacs in bloom was wonderful — better than roses, I think now.

Ruth hated the pigeons and the chickens. She used to terrify the chickens, waving her arms at them when her father wasn’t looking as he tried to settle them into their roosts at night. She told me chickens were stupid. Mom stayed home, taught by her mother until she was around seven. Then her parents took her to the school to be “tested” to see what grade she should go in. She told me, “they put me in third grade and that’s when you know everything, like where the bathrooms are, and I knew nothing. I felt like an idiot.” She graduated from high school at 15 and the University of Cincinnati (Engineering degree) at age 20, so she was far from an idiot. Imagine, getting an engineering degree in 1937? She was one of two women in the department, she would say, but she never said a word about the other woman. Curious.



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Valerie MacEwan

The Dead Mule @deadmule writer, thinker, advocate for an ethical society, publisher online for 25 years.