The Cleveland inner city park with its delightful lake was a gathering spot for many in the 1950’s where Yiddish and Polish were heard as often as English. Our family often visited there. By the edge of the lake was a water slide, where older children would climb up the ladder, slide into the water, and then splash back to shore.
At age four, this looked inviting to me. One time, seeing all the other larger children, I walked over to the slide while mother was changing and my grandparents were talking in the language of their youth. I waded into the shallow water at the base of the stairs, waiting as the big kid in front of me raced up, positioned himself at the top and then joyously slid down. It was my turn next.
I was large enough to climb up the slide, sit for a moment at the top and enjoy the view. Then, following the example of the other children, I slid down the slide into the water, which quickly rose over my head as I hit the bottom. My eyes were open and I clearly recall the startling blue-green color that surrounded me.
Four, five, six seconds, then an older lady who was miraculously watching reached down, picked me up and carried me back to the shallow area. She told me, in Italian, not to climb up the slide without first having my mother with me, leaving as suddenly as she had arrived. I understood most of her advice thanks to listening to and occasionally speaking with our elderly next door neighbor, on E. 153rd St., near Kinsman Ave.
I enjoyed the rest of that long-ago summer afternoon, more appreciative of the wondrous blue sky and the familiar sounds of various languages that drifted all about, seated close to my grandparents by their favorite shade tree, and living on borrowed time to this very day.
Stuart Terman, M.D. is a Cleveland physician who lived for a time with his grandparents in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood as a child. He has published in numerous medical journals and loves Cleveland, both past and present.
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Who We Are, Where We Live is a free community writing program giving voice to people who live and work in the Buckeye/Shaker community. Participants write stories, learn about their neighborhood, and share with their neighbors. Annually, selected writings are published here in an online anthology and presented at a final reading and celebration.