A collection of love letters written to the town.
You loved me to life, Toledo.
I miss you. This is not new news; I have missed you for 2.5 years now, ever since I married The Husbeast and moved away. While it’s been an amazing 2.5 years of love and growth (and, yes, enjoying living in a Cleveland suburb), you will always be my hometown even if I didn’t grow up here. At least, not in body. But my heart and soul grew up here.
When I think about you, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for your greatest gift to me. Yes, you have historic neighborhoods, amazing cultural and learning institutions, gorgeous metroparks, and a myriad of other amenities that make you shine in your unassuming way. What I miss most, though, is your heart. The people. My people.
I’ve talked with other Toledo “expats” and there’s a common theme: Despite all the blessings we experience where we are, no matter how hard we’ve searched for or worked to create it, we’ve yet to find or build any kind of community like what we had in our circle of friends in Toledo. That’s not to say we haven’t met nice, caring people and gotten involved in similar activities where we are now; it is to say that Toledo has its own kind of love, and it is powerful stuff.
Maybe it’s because you’re a bit of the uncool kid, struggling with poverty and identity, not fitting in with the larger cities or the smaller towns. You’re stuck up in the corner, more often paired off with beleaguered Detroit than the cities in your own state. (My friend Fahey would say that’s because we’re actually in Toledo, Michigan, but he also believes in sea wolfs so I take his commentary with a whole salt shaker.) But these struggles you have make you creative and resourceful and compassionate in ways that shame larger cities with “more to offer”.
I’ve always been a sucker for the underdog, and for falling in love with big, generous hearts. That’s you to a T, Toledo. And that brings me back to that greatest gift: You loved me to life.
My gratitude is for your people. For friends who showed up with bags of brand new clothes after a devastating fire, and the one who helped me move into a new home after that disaster. For friends who taught me how to pray, how to listen, how to study, how to hold space for others. For friends who held me – physically and emotionally – after my dad died suddenly on Father’s Day. For friends who helped me pursue the dream of starting a street paper, then the dream of working for a nonprofit. For friends whose love and patience and fatherliness healed much of my “daddy issues”, then walked me down the aisle. For friends who opened up new worlds of art and creativity to me. For friends whose conversations and passions continue to inspire me. For friends who walked with me into abandoned buildings looking for people who needed to know they matter. For friends with whom you spend an entire weekend hanging out in Tent City. For friends who helped me rediscover my voice through poetry. For all these people who taught me how to give and love and turn my life into one that still brings me to tears with thankfulness.
You loved me to life, Toledo, and my life became something I love. I miss all your people, all the generosity and compassion that’s more than just nonprofits and fundraising. Your big-heartedness is an everyday lifestyle that I experienced when I lived with you, and taught me transformational lessons I carry with me to this day. You are exceptional in many ways, but none more so than in the thousands of continual occurrences of compassion that can be found everywhere within your limits.
And with such love, what are your limits? I think you’re waking up now to find out that there are none when it comes to how you can impact the world.
My God, you are incredible, Toledo. I love you, and can’t wait to see you again.
Amanda (Moore) Zuehlke
Amanda is a founder of Toledo Streets Newspaper. She married in May 2013 and soon thereafter left her adopted hometown. After a short stay in southern Ohio, Amanda and “the husbeast” relocated to the west side of Cleveland, which makes her twice monthly visits to Toledo easier. She misses her Toledo community and says she has yet to find anything like it.