On residential area maps my neighborhood is labeled Sherwood Forest. Street names associated with the fable of Robin Hood – Little John, Friar Tuck, Nottingham – are not clustered within Sherwood Forest but instead spread across several areas on the North Side. I live on one of those streets, and it’s a neighborhood all by itself.
On July 4, 1959, my husband and I moved into our home with our three children in tow – a five-year-old, a three-year-old, and a three-week-old. Although the thermostat was set to 75 degrees, the inside temperature mirrored the waves of sweltering heat outdoors. Excitement over our new home morphed into disbelief.
Large drops of perspiration dripped from our faces. The baby whimpered as tiny heat rash bumps appeared on his body. The icemaker bucket waited for cubes that never dropped. Ceiling fans refused to turn. I telephoned my Mom, then my husband called our builder.
Mom came first and whisked the children away to her cool home a few miles away.
“There’s been a slight oversight,” said the builder. While the house was ready to be linked to the city’s utilities, someone neglected to connect one to the other.
Before long, a CPS emergency crew arrived, their trucks laden with white PVC pipe. The workers rigged an over-the-ground link across our front yard and driveway, avoided newly planted saplings and tinkered with connections at the street and in the house. Thomas Edison couldn’t have been more delighted than we were that Fourth of July evening when the lights came on and the air conditioning motor began to hum.
That was our first unique experience in the neighborhood, but it was not our last.
I’ve lived on my street longer than anyone else (save one resident) and have seen several homeowner turnovers in each house but mine. Time passes and kids grow.
After a slew of disappearances, the parents in our neighborhood tried in vain to figure out what happened to the carrots and celery we kept in our refrigerators. If it had been cookies and ice cream, we’d have known, but crunchy vegetables? Then one of the kids got caught smuggling a fresh bunch of carrots out the kitchen door. His mom followed until she saw several boys from the neighborhood in the vacant lot where Dulce the Donkey lived. When confronted, the kids answered with the innocence only eight-year-olds can muster. “Dulce loves our vegetables.”
Over the years on Halloween, kids have trick-or-treated at our door. I watched the littlest ones costumed as ballerinas and ghosts, then as the popular superheroes of the day. Their outfits matured as they did.
We’ve loved many of our neighbors, none more than Hugo and Irma.
After each rainstorm Hugo, a man of considerable years, climbed on his roof to check for damage. We begged him to stay on the ground and leave the roof climbing to the pros. He assured us he was fine and proceeded up the ladder favoring his arthritic knees with each step. I closed my eyes and turned away.
Some years later Irma, frail and close to ninety, walked across the street for dinner at our house. “When did you move so far away?” she asked. We all laughed then, but now I’m beginning to know what she meant.
By the time Hal and Angie moved into the neighborhood, maturing trees on one side of the street arched closer to those on the opposite side. Hal smoked his final cigarette of the day while seated on his front porch. With each puff, glow from his cigarette momentarily lit the darkness like a huge lightning bug in the summer air.
We drove into our driveway late one night following a miscalculation on my bicycle that had resulted in a fractured pubic bone. “Don’t put any weight on this,” said the ER doctor, staring at the x-ray.
OK, but how do I get from our car in the driveway into my bedroom?
My husband thought he had the answer. He lined up chairs between the car and the front door and attempted to help me scoot from one chair to the other. But the chairs had arms which stopped the slide. Now what?
We hadn’t noticed Hal on his porch, but heard his welcome call into the night. “Need some help?” He strolled across the street, and as if I weighed no more than his nightly cigarette, carried me into the house and onto my bed. Neighborliness is and has been a way of life on my street.
This is a neighborhood where people walk dogs, push baby strollers, jog and bicycle.We’re close to the Tobin Park trailhead and can stroll, hike or bike on trails including one that takes us under the highway to Los Patios, along Salado creek and – for the well-conditioned – all the way to McAlister Park. Nearby McArthur Park’s oak shaded swings, slides, and picnic tables lure families from neighboring communities.
My mouth begins to water as I think about restaurants that surround us: Beto’s for Mexican street food, Barbeque Station for ribs and live country music on Tuesdays, La Fonda for Tex-Mex, Chesters for burgers, and a few minutes south on Broadway to Cappy’s and Cappycinos.
My Sunday morning ritual includes a trip to the small and busy Quarry Market. Fernando’s vegetables and fruits are fresh from his 9-1 Produce Farm. He shares his cooking expertise as his customers explore the familiar and exotic produce he displays. Jars of honey from the bees on 3G farms line Debbie and Curtis’s stand along with her tasty pickled okra and in-season vegetables.
The H-E-B in our neighborhood calls itself a convenience grocery, small and friendly. During a storm and 17-hour power outage not long ago, H-E-B set up rows of power strips so neighbors could recharge our cellphones.
Today my home is sandwiched between two families who bake and share cookies, pumpkin bread, chocolate truffles. These folks are my texting buddies when a storm comes and the electricity fails. We pick up each other’s papers and packages when one of us is out of town. We respect each other’s space. No one pops in bearing the latest gossip, but it’s comforting to know I can count on them and vice versa.
One former neighbor, a childhood playmate of my eldest daughter and now a grown woman with children of her own, wrote me a letter recently that ended, “I feel so lucky to have grown up on our street.”
I know how she feels.