The Where I Live series aims to showcase our diverse city by spotlighting its many vibrant neighborhoods. Each week a local resident invites us over and lets us in on what makes their neighborhood special. Have we been to your neighborhood yet? Get in touch to share your story.

I work in a tiny room in an old house and it’s perfect. 

The man who built this home with the curving front porch in 1904, Norman Bodet, started the Bodet Steamship and Travel Agency, which for many years operated out of the Alamo National Bank building downtown. The steamship company carried people far, far away. Prior to the internet, I used to book all my work travels through them, so I could receive itineraries in their gorgeous long blue envelopes printed with old-fashioned steamships. It felt like those ships were coming home, since they said Bodet in the return address.

Bodet’s son Norman and daughter-in-law Opal Haley succeeded him in this house for 50 years, raising their own son named Norman. We have now lived here 40 years. My husband’s middle name is Norman. A house destined for Normans. This was the only house we ever looked at to buy, and we have never wanted to move.

Real estate agent Julia Cauthorn, longtime champion of the King William neighborhood, used to say that living in a house older than you are, with high ceilings, makes you a better person. Artist Susie Monday once told me, when we were both still studying at Trinity University, “If you’re going to live in a city at all, you might as well live downtown.”

Comments stick. 

We were the young kids on the block when we moved in, and now we’re veterans. We have our own history. Sometimes called Arsenal, I like to think of this neighborhood on the western rim of King William as the quiet rim of downtown. On the other side of the beautiful river from all the big mansions, our land used to be a giant orchard of fruit and pecan trees. Pecan trees remain. The park across the street, originally dedicated in O.P. Schnabel’s name and now called Beautify San Antonio Park, has irrigation acequias snaking through it — the landscapers left a few exposed, behind the San Antonio Housing Authority. Schnabel loved beauty. People live in these houses for generations, raise kids in them, feel proud of them. 

I miss everyone who has died or moved away.

I still like to write with a pencil or pen on paper. But of course I’m grateful for the possibilities and swiftness of the world of technology, especially Zoom and Skype, this past crazy year. Next to my writing table, the washing machine and dryer hum their tunes, keep things rolling. When this studio was being built onto the house, the builder said I could make it twice as big for only a little extra money. I said, “No, I prefer it tiny.” I have thought of that a thousand times. 

Poems are tiny. Words are tiny. I wouldn’t mind having more bookshelves though. Though I think of myself as a minimalist, my packed little room belies that myth.

  • Nye grabs a cigarette butt with her tongs while walking though the park across the street from her home.
  • Nye's grandson has his own little garden with a selection of fruits and veggies that he tends to when he comes to visit his grandparents at their King William home.
  • Nye enjoys the sunflowers her son planted in their backyard garden.
  • Each morning Nye walks a few blocks to the Johnson Street Bridge that goes across the San Antonio River.

Michael and I feel lucky to have workspaces right at home, not only during the pandemic year, but always. It’s possible to get going on something at 4:30 or 5 a.m. and have a lot done by 8. We feel very grateful to have a perfect South Flores Market just three blocks away. Food source closely related to creativity! Having a grocery store within walking distance was a longtime dream after the old South St. Mary’s Handy Andy closed.

We’re sad about El Mirador. We’re brokenhearted about the Mexican Manhattan and Madhatter’s. Fruteria! Shotgun Coffee! Life is change, but it doesn’t make it easier to lose the points on a compass. At least living in one spot so long, after the River Walk extended way south and abandoned places like the Judson Candy Factory turned into lofts, and the Station Café became our favorite take-out, we feel positives happening too.

I like writing about what happens, who said what, how things started, where things went. I like feeling the linkages between odd, seemingly disparate details. 

Once a plumber was digging under our house and dug up a perfect little ancient china teacup, about an inch tall. It has a fluted handle and feels like marble.

Would you like some tea? There was an old iron standing lamp in the attic when we moved in. I had it rewired a few years ago and read with it every night. 

We used to invite Opal to come visit us after she moved out, but she refused. She said it would feel too sad. But Don, who ran the gas station that would become the Station Café, said he saw her driving by here all the time, staring dreamily out the window. 

Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye has written or edited more than 30 books of poems, essays, short stories, novels for young readers, and picture books. She is the Young People's Poet Laureate of the United States