I started jogging at Woodlawn Lake Park 15 years ago, when I was a recent college graduate and too broke to join a gym. Some friends of mine lived a few blocks from the park so I would visit them and exercise at the lake. I also remember noting how many people sat out on their porches in the evenings to share time with friends and family along many of the streets near the lake, back when I was just a visitor. That seemed like a good sign of community to me.
Things I loved then were the plethora of families out barbecuing, fishing, and enjoying the outdoors together, scattered all around the lake. I still cherish those things, and also enjoy watching the many bats that swoop over the water in the twilight hours of the warmer months of the year. My daughter and I regularly notice new types of bird visitors and take stock of the ducklings waddling around each spring. We are pretty sure it’s our dogs’ favorite walking destination, too.
We became residents of the Jefferson neighborhood two Octobers ago. Since then, I’ve learned that this area was once a “premier” group of neighborhoods, according to the neighborhood association description, back when it was along the outer limits of the city. Our house was built in the early 1930s, as was the stunning Jefferson High School just down the street.
Like most historic homes, this one needs a lot of work, and we’re taking it one project at a time. I appreciate all the original detailing that has been left here, though – the sink head that juts straight out of the original tile backsplash in the kitchen, the twin closets in every bedroom, and the accent trim around all the walls of the living and dining room. We learned through foundation work early on that our hardwood floors were built to be “A-plus floors,” according to our contractor. I take it as a sign that our house has good bones, in spite of all the updates it needs.
I’m learning more about the Jefferson neighborhood as we settle in. We’re near the lake, as in, we can walk there but it’s a long hike. So far, we have only driven. However, we can walk to a strip of shops and restaurants on Donaldson Avenue in a matter of minutes for a haircut, a trip to the dollar store, a fresh cup of coffee at Koffee Kup, or essentials at Jefferson Bodega (my new favorite corner store). And, Pancake Joe’s next door to the bodega is so good even our friends and family from other parts of town will join us there for brunch.
On nice days, we can also make a longer walk to Woodlawn Theatre on Fredericksburg Road, to which we now have season tickets. My daughter has made a lot of friends through their education programs, and we’ve both enjoyed being a part of their extended community. Not long before the theater closed its doors for COVID-19 safety measures, we got to participate as audience judges in the casting of their next show, “On Your Feet.” Before the judging started, the theater had a social with free food, drinks, and music. The whole event was a blast. Being so close makes it easier to join in on evening events like that, even when they’re held on school nights.
Living here in the time of social distancing has been interesting, but also reassuring that we are in a great place. Neighbors almost always wave and say hello from a healthy distance as we head out to stretch our legs each day. I see younger neighbors helping my elderly neighbors by taking out their trash cans for pickup each week, and people checking in on each other from across their lawns. At my last stop to the bodega (they had toilet paper!), the owners told us to let them know if there was anything we needed so they could try and secure it for us.
As of late March, we’ve stopped visiting the lake and opted instead to walk along the much quieter streets immediately surrounding us. We miss the park, but are grateful that we have tree-lined streets to walk down that feel safe and friendly. Most of the businesses we love have closed their doors for now, and we sincerely hope they are doing OK and will make it through this time. We are anxiously waiting to head back to them and to the lake when this time of social distancing is behind us.