The Old Neighborhood

by Abby on May 30, 2012

Riley in yellow bootsThe boys and I were hanging out in our front yard one afternoon. Summer has already arrived in Baltimore, bringing with it damp heat and the drone of insects. The late-day sun slanted through the Japanese maple, casting a burnished glow on the overgrown lawn, scattered with plastic toys. From my perch on the front steps, I had a close-up view of the sidewalk that was — as usual — decorated with multicolored chalk drawings. Snakes and butterflies navigated around the weeds sprouting from cracks here and there.

A man in an expensive sedan drove by. Twice. The second time, he stopped the car, rolled down the window and said, “How are you enjoying the house?” Just as I started to think, Who IS this creepy guy? He added, “We sold it to you.” Oh, yeah. I thought he looked familiar.

We spent a few minutes catching up. His daughter, then a young teen, had just graduated college, he told me. Yes, I said, these 2 little boys scootering around me were my sons, both born since we’d bought the house. Almost all of the old neighbors had moved, making room for a new wave of young couples and families who now lived on the street, I told him. I made him promise not to tell his wife that we’d let her beautiful yard go to seed. I mean, weeds. He said the deer ate everything she planted at their new place.

“So how is the new house?” I asked him.

“Good…” he replied. “We miss the old neighborhood.”

“It’s a great neighborhood,” I agreed. “We love living here.” Then he drove off with a wave.

I couldn’t help but wonder what had spurred this man to drive by his old house in the middle of a weekday afternoon. Curiosity? Nostalgia? To me, he sounded a little wistful as we were talking. He had lived in our house for close to 16 years. Raised a family there. Celebrated milestone birthdays there. Raked the leaves and shoveled the walk. I’m sure he had lots of fond memories of the place.

Now he had a bigger house in a better zip code. A fancy car. A child who’d grown up and graduated from a good college. He probably paid someone to mow his lawn and shovel the snow now. Isn’t that what we all want?

Like moms of small children everywhere, people are always telling me to enjoy this time with them while they’re young. In the blink of an eye they’ll be teenagers, they warn us. Then college graduates. Then gone.

As I fasten the bike helmet under my 3yo’s chin, taking care not to pinch his soft, downy skin, I can’t resist giving him a smooch. He smells of sunscreen and little-boy sweat. I push his damp bangs to the side and plant another kiss on him before he pulls away, off and running again. But not me. I’m in no hurry today.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen Basi May 30, 2012 at 7:13 am

Oh, I like this. What a tender post.

I still drive by our old house once in a while, too. 🙂


Angie Mizzell May 30, 2012 at 7:41 am

Oh, how I love to push damp bangs to the side and smell little boy sweat. We pass our old street a lot and when I see the white picket fence, images of Dillon and Blake flash through my mind so quickly it hurts.


Kristine Goad May 30, 2012 at 10:22 am

Lovely post, Abby! I could feel my chest get tight thinking about what he must have been thinking about. Maybe your assurances that you love the house and the neighborhood helped him feel better about the fact that those things are in the past for him.


Anne McLain May 30, 2012 at 12:28 pm

My sister-in-law passed this along to me – I grew up in your neighborhood. I often close my eyes and picture the streets covered in snow, hot summer nights, riding bikes with my brothers etc. It was a wonderful place to grow up! Now I have two small boys and wish we lived nearby. I loved your post. Thank you!


Abby May 30, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Thank you for your comment, Anne! How cool that you grew up around here and have such fond memories of your childhood.


Abby May 30, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Thanks for your comments, ladies. Always nice to know when something resonates.


Corey Feldman May 30, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Nice post. I live about 2 miles from the house I grew up in. Its kind of surreal talking my kids to some of the same places my parents took me. Or when I job past my old house and see other people there…


Jennifer Roland May 30, 2012 at 8:00 pm

I have had the craving to drive by my old house, but it is 120 or so miles away. I don’t know how I could justify the trip. 🙂


Krysty May 30, 2012 at 10:39 pm

Interesting post. After 15 years in the city we have just purchased our first house out in Westchester county about 35 miles north of NYC. It wasn’t until we had visited, I don’t know how many houses, that I realized they were all empty nesters – that we were about 15-20 years behind all these couples that had moved out of the city with the hopes of offering their children a different life – in so many ways the circle of life keeps on growing.


naomi June 21, 2012 at 1:09 am

a house is always ready to house, nurture and foster a happy life for the current inhabitants! I’m a firm believer that a house often outgrows its residents before the residents are ready to move on! Lovely post about nostalgia!


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