I walked outside with my morning coffee. The scent of mountain laurel wrapped around me like a blanket that comforted me in this moment. I’m home and could not be happier. There’s a sense of accomplishment that overcomes me as I look at my little plot of land that I own. I worked hard for it and aside from all of the odds stacked against our generation owning a home, we were able to establish roots in my hometown. It feels amazing, and I feel gratitude in moments like these.   

My family moved back home to San Antonio from Austin in the summer of 2019. We are a fairly young family with a preschooler, and living in San Antonio was our goal. We were in search of an affordable housing market that Austin will simply never offer and wanted more opportunities to attend family gatherings. We wanted our son to create the same memories I had as a child, such as running around with my cousins at my grandparents’ house on every occasion that warranted a barbecue with a helping of my grandmother’s homemade Mexican rice. We dreamed of being able to show him Christmas lights on the River Walk, cheer on the floats during Fiesta and ride the same rides that I rode as a child at Kiddie Park.

We originally chose to rent an apartment at The Compound on Broadway before purchasing a home. This was the perfect location to access the trails to Lions Field and Brackenridge Park, the Pearl, the San Antonio Zoo, the DoSeum, Kiddie Park and the Witte Museum. We had all of the cultural institutions for families within walking distance, but once the pandemic hit, we knew it was time to start searching for our forever home. Our apartment that we once saw as a portal to the heart of the city felt like a tiny living space surrounded by businesses and playgrounds that were temporarily roped off and shut down. All of my son’s daily adventures and learning opportunities came to a sudden halt, and his world was reduced to two patios overlooking the Brackenridge Golf Course. We needed a yard, and my son needed space to grow and stability during uncertain times.

Searching for a home in the beginning of the pandemic was unique to say the least. Before entering each home, we had to agree to fill out a new COVID-19 certification form (yes, those were a thing!). The market was booming and houses were going fast. The cliché of “everything happens for a reason” hummed repeatedly in our minds as we had multiple failed offers on homes. As redundant as the cliché may be, it rang true as we found our perfect house.

We found an older home built in the 1960s that has the charm most recently updated homes do. We stayed in District 1, yet it feels like a completely different city. The neighborhood is an even mix of new families with kids around the same age as my son and older residents who have children who are my age. It’s quiet and everyone is friendly. The first time we took our son into his new backyard, his eyes lit up and he immediately took ownership of his new domain. We knew we made the right decision.

If you’re anything like our family, local food is our love language. Sitting on the front corner of our neighborhood is Goros, where I had my first taste of sushi as a teenager. I remember it having an affordable happy hour, and I would rave about that place to all of my friends as if I had found a secret establishment. I took my wife on one of our first dates to Goros, and we sat at the bar while the chef made us special “off the menu” dishes to sample while we sipped sake and Sapporo. Further down the road is El Taco De Jalisco. I know this is a sensitive subject here, but these are some of the best tacos in town. The lady at the drive-thru always has a smile on her face and she always makes sure your bag includes the free sopapillas that come with your meal. You can always smell the cinnamon and sugar on the way home. On the far side of our neighborhood is Miss Chickpea’s Bakeshop. I recommend trying their pupusas with plantain chips. They have a small outside seating area where my son and I will try to name each car passing by on Callaghan Road while we enjoy lunch.

One of the best conveniences of the Greenbriar neighborhood is that it’s central to everything. We are a short drive away from Hardberger Park and a 15-minute drive back to our old stomping grounds on Broadway. If I could improve one aspect of our neighborhood, it would be the walkability and bikeability of this area. As an advocate of sidewalks, trails and bike lanes, it’s sometimes a strange irony to come home to a neighborhood with no sidewalks, bike lanes or trails within walking distance. I hope to one day see improved infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians.

But the tradeoff is fair in my eyes. Nobody ever says, “Home is where the sidewalks are.” My home is built with memories and new traditions created by my wonderful family. I love being able to pull down the movie screen, set up a tent, make s’mores and have movie nights. I enjoy the shade of mature trees and the birds that come to visit. And only my family will ever know what my son named the two pear trees we planted together in our backyard. This is my home; this is where I live.

Kari Kuwamura is the executive director of ActivateSA.