Summer Vacations at My Grandma’s House, Poland, OhioGUEST BLOGGERS, Historic/Museums, MEMORIES, USA MAINLAND — By Julia Munroe Martin on July 23, 2011 at 01:27
Story by guest blogger Julia Munroe Martin. Photos Copyright © Milli Thornton and Julia Munroe Martin.
Preface from Milli: My guest blogger today, Julia Munroe Martin, is an online friend. I first read this story on her writing blog, wordsxo, exactly one week ago. Not only was I enchanted with her story, but it just so happens I live only one suburb over from Poland. (We’re in Youngstown, 80 miles SE of Cleveland, Ohio.) Naturally, that called for a field trip and some up-to-the-minute photos. Julia and I had a blast co-producing this version of her original blog post, and we’re hoping you’ll enjoy this combo of old-fashioned vacation news and modern-day small town adventure.
Over to you, Julia. . . .
AS A CHILD I moved frequently. With my parents busily pursuing their careers as college professors—including year-long trips to Kenya and Belize where they conducted research—we moved from place to place. It may sound glamorous—but to a child? This child? I had no place to call home.
The closest I ever felt to home was with my grandmother at her house in Poland, Ohio, on the banks of Yellow Creek. I’ve tried to recreate that feeling throughout my life—it’s one of the reasons I now live in a small town in Maine, 20 minutes outside Portland. I love that in my small town I can walk to many places—like I did in Poland. But for my grandmother, walking places was a necessity because Grandma (“Ohio Grandma” as we called her) didn’t drive. Luckily, a quick walk across the bridge took her to every small-town amenity you would ever need.
We walked all over town together: Isley’s Ice Cream, the post office, the small grocery, the library across the creek, her neighbor Mr. Steinfield’s house with all its clocks, and to church on Sunday. She was from a different age and time, and when I was with her, I wished and hoped with all my might that her life would be mine.
Her house on the banks of Yellow Creek was surrounded by gardens: vegetable, flowers, fruit, lush vegetation. Everywhere some small plant was tucked, a lovely flower or delicious berry treat. And it was here, in her beautiful world, I learned gardening basics: what plants grew where and how to care for them. To this day I cannot see some of her favorites—Black-eyed Susan, Lunaria (money plant), Swiss Chard, or Queen Anne’s Lace—without thinking of her.
But more, my grandmother taught me about what growing things need: vegetables and flowers, small woodland animals, and people too.
Every night I would lie, safely tucked into the small Jenny Lind bed in the tiny bedroom under the eaves—and I felt like one of her little plants: safe and secure. My bedroom window looked out over Main Street as well as the bridge over the creek. As I lay in bed, I could hear cars rattle over the bridge and trace their headlights across the flowered wallpaper, the same wallpaper my mother grew up with. With each set of headlights, I’d wish with all my might that it really truly was my home.
In the morning, we’d sit and eat our toast at her kitchen table. Together we’d watch the birds on the birdfeeder outside the window. She loved all the birds that came to the feeder (and even the squirrels that raided it, too!) and so began my lifelong interest in birds. Chickadees, Jays, and Cardinals—these favorites remind me of her.
Later, after a day of gardening and building dams in the small creek, we walked into the small village of Poland. Hand-in-hand, down Main Street toward the center of town, my grandmother would stop to greet each person by name and introduce them to her granddaughter. As we walked she told me stories about my mother when she was my age, about her friends and all their adventures.
Grandma and I shared a love of reading, and one summer I was excited to find that the Poland Public Library had relocated to right across the creek from my grandmother’s house. We visited the library often, sometimes everyday—all we had to do was walk across the Main Street bridge. I even had my own library card!
For two glorious weeks each summer I was lucky enough to be a part of my grandmother’s life. And during those two weeks she taught me about gardening, bird watching, cooking, and a little bit about life, too.
But mostly? She taught me about home.
Afterword by Milli: As you can imagine, I was thrilled to live close enough to Poland, Ohio to collaborate on expanding Julia’s story. But once I arrived in Poland it got even better. The locals were super-friendly: I was soon immersed in the library scene and being urged to attend a popular Friday night social event. The locals even wanted to help me move from Boardman to live in Poland!
Far from the 30-minute trip I thought I was doing to grab some photos, I was gone for hours . . . and my adventures will result in several more stories for this blog. One of the most fulfilling moments was when I located the old house by looking for the Woodruff Foundry 1850 historic plaque (mentioned above in the caption for the newspaper clipping).
You just never know what adventures await you in your own backyard!
~ Milli aka Milliver
JULIA MUNROE MARTIN lives in an old house in a small town on the coast of Maine, about 20 minutes outside of Portland. She comes by her wanderlust naturally: born in France, she has also lived in Massachusetts, California, Colorado, Belize, Kenya, and Uganda (with brief stints in Minnesota, Ohio, and New York). Julia is a freelance writer and editor in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors; she writes fiction and creative-nonfiction; she blogs at wordsxo and tweets as @wordsxo.