A long-running joke between Carrie and me (at least she thinks it’s joke) is that while each of us cut teeth in South Euclid, I was raised on the poor side of town. It’s true. Her roots on Upper Wrenford placed her among the crème-de la crème of our city until God parted the Red Sea that was Belvoir Boulevard and Jews resettled on Langerdale and Temblethurst.

Growing up Bogart across from the school was idyllic. Ours was a small bungalow, (but we knew it not). Indeed, H and I had few of the amenities gracing others’ home— like a second floor, for example. Oh, we did have an attic, but in our decade of residence it remained unfinished. Not to worry: our Mom stored things there so Hal and I’d periodically access what could only have been described as an asbestos bomb shelter.

(Ed. Note 1: I was twenty when first advised that our home was small. It was December of ’69, with my first girlfriend in tow from Columbus).

“This is the house I grew up in,” I boasted, driving by. “You grew up in THAT?” she responded. Politely, of course, but make no mistake about it—with incredulity. (Years later I did ask my mother if indeed our old home had been small. She said Yes and I accepted it as fact. Mothers don’t lie).

The point is it never mattered. Not to me or my friends. Sure I’d noticed that Wieder’s lived in a split level, and that his expanse of land included a driving range. And yes Cohn’s home was bigger. Heck, my twin bed on Bayard fit under Joel’s ping pong table. Who cared? Weather permitting, H and I played table tennis on our back yard picnic table. A baseball bat dissected the surface as the net and the only downsides were the longitudinal cracks in the wood and the errant bounces they caused. (Ed. Note 2: Our reflexes were actually augmented by the unexpected, inadvertent caroms we learned to address). Dubbing it “crackball”, we’d vie endlessly with Gelfand or Fenton or Fromin in our pristine, palatial world— all as Adam circled, barking.

We had no idea—none of us— that we didn’t live in the high rent district. Indeed, ours was the best childhood money couldn’t buy. For whatever reason—and it wasn’t just Hal and I— but the thrust of our group shared a value system concerned less with what others had and more with joy we all felt. Rich kids may have owned “pitchbacks”— those verticle trampouline/nets that provided catchers for pitchers, but we had the real thing: friends.

But back to our house: It had three bedrooms, a small bath and a half, and was so compact that, honestly, years later living in Beachwood— especially after my divorce— I knew housewives with mouths bigger than our living room. So what?

In the mid-60’s we moved. Bayard lost in foreclosure, our mom remarried and new hubby Sam bought a colonial on Stonehaven. It was newer and bigger and I knew they were trying. Still, (to me at least), ‘twas a house, not a home.

Yet all was good. We had what we needed and never looked back. Heck, even in the lean years, with the divorce still raw, the Brothers Bogart saw life half-full. (Ed. Note 3: My Great Uncle Irv died suddenly and I would stumble through junior high wearing his brand new black dress loafers. “The elastic’s killing me,” I’d complain to my mother. “Oh, don’t be a big baby,” she urged me. “Some people don’t have shoes”).

Our values were skewed to the inside. Why look to what others have when you hold all you need? (Like a bat, a ball, and a mother willing to let you ruin a mattress keeping a mitt under it). Sure some kids played Careers while we played Monopoly. And No, we never actually owned our own rubber-coated hard ball. So No, we didn’t ask for much. Why would we? On the streets of South Euclid every day was in season and every game was for the world championship.

We learned long ago, H and me, that happiness is an inside job. Perhaps it’s the South Euclid in us. Perhaps it’s the simple fact that even as our parents’ marriage shattered and even as their worlds disintegrated, each found a way, always, to reassure us how much we were loved. We looked not then for THINGS to be validated; we had family.

I think of those days now and then…not in euphoric recall, but with gratitude. Our parents left us minimal assets yet maximized memories. The cornerstone of love they provided, as much as anything else, is the reason there’s never been a day in my life that I haven’t felt blessed.

One Response to “ROYALS”

  1. Aunt Helen says:

    Bruce, you always amaze me. You can remember your past in such great detail. Yet, when I ask you to get an itemized receipt from Jack’s so that I can put it in my files, you somehow forget.

    That, I will never understand.

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