My recent honor necessitated submission of a personal balance sheet. Not for anything bad, mind you — in fact, good stuff.  That stated, the task offered another stark reminder of how often less is more.

I’m in an interesting place, and I don’t mean Cleveland. Six-plus decades within three square miles find me waking daily to Carrie, thinking daily of my kids far away, and walking daily with a God of my understanding. May I be forgiven (at this point in my life) for shouting it out, but I’VE GOT THE WORLD BY THE BALLS!

Fact is, gazing back ‘cross the canvas of my past, I embrace the journey.

First stop: 11417 Hopkins Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio (’49-’55).

Life on the first floor of our grandmother’s duplex was simple. In an exercise of questionable zoning compliance Widow Waller stayed in a third floor box. Her husband Hymie died first, and I recall how my Dad claimed the old man (who wore a patch over one eye and frankly looked like a Jewish pirate) had been a bootlegger. Uncomplicated times, these were, in a house of quite complicated lineage.

(Ed. Note 1: Great Uncle Benny bought the home in ’39. He sold it to Grandpa Harry who died a decade later and left it, in late ’49, to Grandma Cele and their two kids: my mom and brother Bob — 1/3, 1/3, 1/3.). Ah, but the plot thickens: In February ‘52, my mom and uncle deeded their interests over to Grandma, making her the sole owner until … mitten dirrena … mid-March, Grandma signed it back to her children).  Two conveyances in six weeks?

(Ed Note 2: Cele married Irv Porter early in 1952. Note to self: I need to call Aunt Etty and find out if it was Uncle Bob’s idea to get the property out of Grandma’s name. Must have been a whirlwind romance between Irv and Cele. What other explanation for the house being flipped?).

Ah, but I digress. Suffice it to say that the decade’s white flight severed my ties with that wondrous setting. Along with the Rubins, the Eisners, and even Mrs. Waller, we schlepped up Cedar Road to the mecca of “The Heights”.

Second stop: 4249 Bayard Road, South Euclid, Ohio.

One floor living at its best! H and I would cross quickly to school. Abutting us in every direction were friends. To the left: Hovanyi, Fenton, Cohen, Fromin…. To the right: Gelfand, Davidson, Matejka, Mulberg, and even further down Polster and Shafran.  (And Markowitz, and Duchon and DD Davis).

Diagonal from Rowland we were, and everyone it seemed, (except the rich kids from south of the school), would pass our way both in coming and going.

— And pet our sheltie … the dog they all knew: Adam

(Ed Note 3: A bungalow it was — 3 bedrooms, one bath. Ah, but the finished basement featured a tiled floor with four central tiles displaying the ace of spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs. The home would be lost in foreclosure, over time — a product perhaps of our father’s compulsion for gambling. Go figure).

The next stops matter not; they all blend together.  The colonial we moved to when Mom married Sam? Bigger, but so? Unknown to me still was that a seed sown on Stonehaven: a house is not always a home.

College intervened, but once Columbus and Uncle Sam were behind me the theme was sustained.

Next stop: 250 Chatham Way, Mayfield Heights, Ohio.

Good times they were, and in some ways idyllic. What could be better than an apartment adjacent to Stuart’s? Classes in the morning, soap operas in the afternoon…

(Ed. Note 4: I didn’t know the place was small, I swear. In the middle of my last last school year, I got the tap. “We should be moving,” she said. “OK.”).

Not that I didn’t like our next stop. 2250 Par Lane, Willoughby Hills it was, and somewhat brand/spanking new. But then came the decorator, and the interior paint, and…

When we bought back on Wrenford I was thrilled. 1911, a walk to the schoolyard, a return to my roots. Three bedrooms they were, somewhat small. And in the basement, one-half was finished. Just a half. Indeed, the other portion (and I don’t know how), but it had a lower roof. We’d have to crouch like Groucho Marx just to navigate through it.

But I was happy, content, smiling.

ENTER ELAINE WALTER, a good friend, Marc’s mom, but a realtor.  (It was 1982).

“What do you need a bigger house for?” asked my Dad as we purchased in Beachwood.

His head was in the 50’s and mine in the 60’s; we were fish out of water. Still, beautiful as the Maidstone home was, necessary as the new space was (with Stacy pending), Al Bogart’s utterances ring true to this day:

“The house you have now is working!” he counseled. “You can only eat three meals a day,” he pointed out. “You don’t need to put this pressure on yourself.”

I didn’t care, I guess; busy I was, being upwardly mobile, driving a bigger car, worrying we might not “keep up with the Jones’s”.

This stop:  serenity. 

For a long time now I’ve been comfortable in my own skin.  Like I was on Hopkins. And on Bayard. And on Chatham Way.

‘Tis a comfort level borne by the simple understanding that bigger isn’t always better, and that surrounded by love, less can be more.

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