It’s Thursday at 12 p.m. and the sun is singing, “Hello Denise!” My black suitcase from Marc’s is packed and in my trunk, and I am ready to roll. My husband, sons, and I are headed to Williamstown, Kentucky, to avoid the Fourth of July here. Here, where there are just as many fields as there are houses. Signs of alcohol sales illuminate the stores windows. A disheveled man asks for money as I wait for the traffic light to change. Glenville—once a thriving community reduced to survival. The gloom around me increases my desire to escape. We have a weekend planned of fishing, playing Mega Bloks, and enjoying ourselves. I have completed my master’s degree and deserve peace. Oh, how I live for our getaways!
Sometimes, in my community, I feel like I am a yellow feather among cactus. I want to soar and enjoy life amidst the chaos all around me. My husband prays for a safe trip as we exit the driveway. A Whodini song radiates the car speakers as our three-year old son recites his ABCs. Three hours later, he is still reciting his ABCs. His voice resembles a melodic bird. I glance at my husband and notice he has drawn a picture of me on his doodle board. I feel such joy in the moment! Relishing bluegill fishing, mesmerized by the blue sky as I am stretched out in my tent. Should I move to the country?
The return home prompts an exit onto MLK Boulevard and down the side street. I fixate my eyes on the first boarded up home. Why did the person write his gang name so largely on it? Don’t my neighbors have cars? If so, why am I haphazardly avoiding broken glass. Is that guy going to shoot? Why doesn’t someone do something! Living in my community has plastered the significance of deciphering between fireworks and gunshots. Living in my community has taught me to use multiple locks on my doors and survey which window can safely permit a summer’s breeze while keeping an intruder out. It can be a prison, yet I have not committed a crime.
Yet, if you shift your lens and slow down, just a bit, you just may find enjoyment looking at the community gardens in this lead paint filled food dessert. I immediately notice the meticulous lawn and shiny beige paint on a particular house. The patio furniture looks inviting, and I wonder who lives in this gem amid Glenville. Even during the transition, new construction brings homes to the neighborhood. Businesses take their chances in Glenville, as they open on East 105th. Some mornings, when all is quiet, I ride my bike down on East Boulevard. I watch my neighbor pull weeds from her yard as her grandson loads the grill with charcoal for their family gathering. She yells to me that she has my mail, and I say thanks. She has lived in this community for over fifty years. A man walks his dog and asks how my day is going. I once stopped my car to let the teens retrieve their basketball that had rolled in front of it. The makeshift hoop did not bother me, as they could have been doing something negative. This is Glenville—a community that has seen wealth and despair. A community that has watched banks leave, churches downsize, and people move into the suburbs. A community that has limited recreation for youth.
Glenville, the community that once drew people from all over for its beauty. Its flames have gone out. There is little sense of a community, but this is still my community. It holds the church where I was baptized. The Cultural Gardens welcome people from all over. Lake Erie is a short drive away, connecting us to Canada. Some of my neighbors remember the old Glenville and keep the same standards of respect. Others live for the moment. Creators of their own venom. Familiar faces decrease. Gentrification. What is the answer?
Denise Monique resides in Glenville with her husband and children. She is a graduate of Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland State University, and Case Western Reserve University. Denise is a licensed social worker and loves to travel as much as possible. Each year, she travels to a place she has never been before. Other hobbies include reading, sometimes as much as a book a day. Growing up, Denise often won the libraries summer reading club recognition for having read the most books. Her nickname was One-Hundred due to her educational efforts. Her dad gave her his own nickname of Squirrel, as she was a tomboy, growing up, and could be found in a tree most days. Denise Monique is the author of Despite My Odds: A Memoir, which was released earlier this year.
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