Patricia Shoemaker (left) hugs her daughter Joy Shoemaker in front of their home in Eden Roc. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

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When I moved back to San Antonio 11 years ago it was to be near family again. After 36 years in the Dallas area, I finally returned to my hometown and found a home in the quiet neighborhood of Eden Roc.

My main criteria for a home was that it be near my mother and siblings, but I liked this neighborhood because it felt peaceful and friendly. When I first moved in, there was nothing anywhere around us. There was a Valero and a Chase bank and that was about it. Since then, the area has grown a lot.

Attending services and participating in various groups at my church is how I stay connected to my community. At Northern Hills United Methodist, I’m a member of United Methodist Women and the Military Ministry. I’m also in Sunday school class, play dominoes, teach English as a Second Language through our church at Stahl Elementary School during the school year, and volunteer with Project Transformation, a summer day camp for kids that offers free meals, reading tutoring, games, and music.

Northern Hills United Methodist Church. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

My daughter and I used to attend services weekly, but because of the pandemic, we now watch on YouTube. Though the church has opened back up and implemented a social distancing policy, we don’t want to take any chances, since I’m older and she has underlying health issues. I’ve also been attending Sunday school and volunteering with Project Transformation via Zoom. It’s more fun in person, of course, but I’m glad to be part of the program and helping kids avoid the “summer slide.” 

My daughter also attends the special needs Sunday school class held at the Ministry Center that our church opened about four years ago on Naco Pass. There are many things going on at the Ministry Center each week, including two church services, citizenship, ESL, and exercise classes, Vacation Bible School, and Project Transformation. The shutdown has been hard for us because we’re used to being so involved in the church. United Methodist Women puts on a lot of events for the community, so it’s been sad to see all of that canceled. We normally have a military banquet in the fall that raises funds for veterans, but we’re not sure if that will happen this year. 

But now that I have more time on my hands, I’ve started on a project I’ve been meaning to start for some time. My brother gave me our father’s Army footlocker that contained letters that my mother and father wrote back and forth to each other between November 1943 and December 1945, during World War II. She was here in San Antonio and he was in China. I’ve had that box for five years and hadn’t done anything with it, so I figured now would be a good time to start. I’ve been reading the letters that my mother wrote when she was pregnant with me, which is so neat to have. That’s just one bundle out of so many. She wrote just about every single day. And I still have to go through my father’s letters and match them up, so this project will keep me occupied for a while.

Patricia Shoemaker’s father’s Army footlocker contains letters that her mother and father wrote back and forth to each other between November 1943 and December 1945, during World War II. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

During this time of relative isolation, I’m also lucky to have really nice neighbors on either side of me. Back in March, when I was out walking with my daughter to get exercise, I stepped on a small rock, lost my balance, and fell. Fortunately, we weren’t far from home, so we were able to get back just fine. But I had a cut under my eyebrow that was bleeding so much, I thought I might need stitches. So I went to the emergency clinic and got it glued up. At the clinic, I noticed how swollen my ankle was. Turns out it was broken, and I had to wear a boot for six or seven weeks.

One of my neighbors picked up my mail during that time because we have those community mailboxes that we have to walk to. The other neighbors helped me take my trash out. About the only thing I did during that time was picking up groceries and going to the doctor, so it was nice to have neighbors help me out and check in on me.

We had a drive-by birthday party for my daughter on July 4. My brother and his wife came over and we sat out on the driveway in the 100-degree weather. Of course, it wasn’t an ideal way to visit, but we hadn’t seen each other since Christmas, so it was nice to catch up, regardless. They brought their Great Dane puppy with them, and she was barking every time a car or one of the neighbors passed by. Since they live on five acres in Spring Branch, and since they haven’t been anywhere because of the pandemic, the puppy hadn’t seen anyone outside of the family, so it was all new to her.

Despite the circumstances, it was nice to see familiar faces and break up the monotony of life during a pandemic. Hopefully, we’ll be able to have family over for a visit inside our home soon and return to the activities we miss in the community.