My Ohio: Remembering Cleveland Christmases past with a walk through the city's Public Square

Walking with a childhood friend remembering Santa

CLEVELAND - When my parents arrived in Cleveland long before I was born, they each had traveled by train. When they left the railroad tracks, they walked up the stairs from the old Union Terminal beneath what is now Tower City and ventured into the openness of the city's Public Square. It was their first view of Cleveland. It would always hold a place of fond memories for them.

They must have breathed some of that feeling into me during my growing-up years in the city. Public Square was among my favorite places in my hometown. It calls me, especially, during the Christmas holiday season as the trees, fountains and some of the buildings are decorated in lights.

For decades, I have enjoyed the holiday lights of the square. Recently, one of my childhood friends from our days in our Cleveland neighborhood and I walked a nostalgic pathway through the Public Square lights, remembering the days of the big department stores downtown. Higbee's, May Company, Halle's, Sterling-Linder-Davis are all gone, yet the Christmas lights of Public Square remain.

Otis Howard, who has been my friend since before kindergarten, and I found a comfort in that fact as we remembered the center point of Cleveland and all the crowds that walked through during the days of our youth so many years ago. Still, there is something that remains timeless at Public Square. It is the feeling generated in us about a mystical garden of light as the many-colored twinkles flash and beckon, just as they did when were were kids.

It is the spirit of the season that remains constant. My parents are both gone. They lived long and fruitful lives. As I walk through the Square, I think back to the days when I put my hand in my mother's hand as we walked through downtown Cleveland gathering gifts for Christmas. She ushered me through the crowds as my father was ladened with all the packages we would buy.

Walking through the many lights of Public Square during the Christmas holiday of 2011 prompts my thoughts back to a gentler time in my life when my parents were at my side and I was in the trusting care of them. Perhaps you feel something similar as you walk through such places.

At the Square tonight, there will be little children holding to their parents' hands. For these youngsters, they are making memories, just as I did, and they will call upon their memories in the later years of their lives. Their squeals with delight are so much like those I made as a child, looking at the flashes of Public Square, celebrating the holiday season.

If you are looking to make memories, take a walk yourself. Put the kids in your tow and show them a wonderful garden of light. Make a memory and watch their faces glow, just as the lights glow. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone.

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