Just finished re-re-re-reading House: A Memoir by Michael Ruhlman, my favorite Cleveland writer/blogger/food expert/television celebrity.
While I identify with Ruhlman’s yearning and houselust, the book’s themes relate to anyone with happy memories of a place they grew up.
Basic overview…the Ruhlman family buys a century-old home in Cleveland Heights and deal with the excitement, and annoyances, that renovation brings. In the work, they hope to fit the house to their needs while paying homage to the structure and the lives that occupied the space before them. Anybody who has been through a major home repair will find familiarity, and shared frustration, in the stories.
But the reason I keep coming back to the book is the depth of topics Ruhlman explores. Apart from toilet installation, the book delves into urban planning, community, the history of suburbs, and Cleveland.
In discovering the history of this house, Ruhlman (and the reader) sees the history and expansion of Cleveland as new generations of wealth made their way east, away from the dirty factories. Technology opens up the outer reaches and leads to the creation of this house, before expanding well beyond, into what we now think of as suburbs.
The structure, a focal point to the societal shift before and after, becomes a microcosm of America. From walking communities to the wide-spread sprawl of major interstates and big-box stores.
Ruhlman also offers his own philosophies on the idea of home and how that connects us to something bigger than ourselves, perhaps helping us to understand our own nostalgia.