I am trying to imagine my future. One without children, possibly even parents. So that is what compelled me to drive to the riverfront. Drawn by the meditative effect of the water, always the water.
I avoided parking fees and pulled into the Montgomery Inn Banquet Center, soon to be One Riverview Plaza. My husband Mark had sent away for brochures touting this new property which will soon contain multitudes of condos overlooking the Ohio River. For Valentine’s Day, the real estate company sent us Aglamesis Chocolates. For March, they enticed us with an invite to brunch followed by a viewing of a local artist’s work whose signature line is considered Luminist style – all light.
As a matter of fact, the Executive Vice President of this venture called the other day. He asked for Mark and I shared that Mark was not in. When he asked if I had any questions regarding this opportunity, I should have told him, “I’m not so easily swayed.” To begin with, I didn’t like the name of the property.” There were so many other options – Yeatman’s Plaza, or one named after the property owner, Gregory Square, or one named after its famed restaurant, Montgomery Center. Something significant. Perhaps, after living in a town called Oceanside and Loveland, I could only live where names were synonymous with the lifestyle.
And yet, I found myself in the parking lot, contemplating the view from here, from now in the present, and observing from the deck my future. I was deep in contemplation for a while near the river, almost in prayer, asking forgiveness for past transgressions of knocking Cincinnati as too provincial, for demeaning the river and its cleanliness or lack thereof. And I wondered could I ever love, so fully, a place other than Oceanside. Recalling a famous journalist’s theory that to love in a city is to live in it, I think I can.
I was not so foolish as to consider a move here tomorrow, but there is a future in my partner and the life we want to choose. After all, there are many lives that we may want – lives movie stars, sports heroes, famous authors, presidents and classmates or neighbors. But there are not many lives that we have the tools, desire or the passion to choose.
As I exited my car, my legs were still aching from pulled muscles and pinched nerves. I yanked off my sunglasses and instead, replaced them with my ski hat. I had been cold before leaving home, but now properly clothed, I felt the need to walk, to stretch not just my legs but my imagination.
I made the twenty-mile trek by car convinced that I was headed back into that same dark hole of grief that I had once experienced after my first husband’s death – the one that swallowed me while protecting me from not only the harmful rays of the sun, but the healthy ones too. “I don’t want to go back into that hole, God.” That had been my recitation as of late.
I believe we cannot heal the world, if we nurse the same wounds as our parents. And my parents were still, at eighty years old, licking their wounds from having married and had children so late in their life. For years they proclaimed, “If only we were ten years younger.” They were embarrassed by their age, forbidding us even a peek at their driver’s license. One of us actually stole their wallet away, not for their money, but their most valuable secret, their age. To this day, when I calculate their age, I subtract using the 1928, the year I so clearly saw stamped on mom’s license.
As children, we also played a role in the guilt they felt over their age. We were embarrassed because my mom didn’t always understand or support the current fashions. We were ashamed that my father worked many weekends and didn’t know much about basketball. Eating disorders, depression, all were prevalent our house, as well as anger and fear. My parents never conveyed their own sense of pride and thought pride is one of the seven mortal sins, it had been rendered extinct in our home.
Passed down to the next generation like brown eyes and olive skin, we became embarrassed too, perhaps by the fact that they carried a shame deep within them. It will never rise to the surface. I can only speculate it originates from the death of my mother’s father while she was still in the womb. Her mother most assuredly passed down that remorse to her only daughter. I can only guess that my dad too had so many emotions locked inside of him, so much that all he could do was yell. He too must have been beaten into submission, working in a family business where he had no passion, living with a father who always wanted more for his other son.
So that is what brought me to the river to watch, to observe, to walk until it no longer hurt my hips, my hamstrings, and even the insides of my legs, which represent childhood and protection from hurt.
And as I began this down this path, I lost myself in the buffer between concrete buildings and the railroad tracks that comprises the path where there grows a bevy of trees, firs, pines and spruce, each one placed erratically placed, and yet they had all grown together in a homogeneous collection as if this right here was the true immigrant experience. Two cats played hide and seek at my feet and thankfully, the black cat did not cross my path.
Strolling I began to envision a future living here, with our children, needing a place to return, a place to hang their backpacks, for some time after they graduate from college. This is still ten years away, but I see the irony in the contrast of planning for ten years ahead and wishing for ten years before. It is making a choice to move forward. Away from my family’s wounds, so I can heal my own.
I did it once, I can do it again, I convinced myself. So I kept on trudging, visualizing scene out on the Ohio River, the working man’s river. There was something awe-inspiring about mud that day, and the debris, including the wooden spool tossing about gently in the current. I would have to learn new terms about the water and its movement and its affect on me. Currents, steamboats, old keelboats, barges. I would have to be OK with debris floating downstream while the barge pushes, tries so hard to move its petroleum products upstream. Yet, there was something rousing about muddy waters, because life was so, not always the Columbia River or even the Pacific Ocean. No life could sustain itself as such for too long a period of time, before mud became a part of the problem or the solution.
Further down river, the sidewalk pavers cross east and west and north and south, hinting at all my past paths here, revealing those of my future too. Finally, I came upon Whistle Grove. I had been a Cincinnatian long enough to appreciate hidden gems, but never more so than now. Whistle Grove was comprised of many stacks, representing old steamboats, that whistle when you walked a certain path – “You’ll walk an X within the ring” the rhyme notes and no sooner did I begin walking and whistles blew, the whir of steel drums bouncing off one stack to another. “The hidden music is in between” the poem ends.
I was in-between that day, living in the present but concerned about aging parents and worried over school choices and homework. If I could just get to that hidden music today, tomorrow, it would guide me for the next ten years and keep me from traversing more then necessary the decade I have just lived.