By Joe Rector
My brothers and I rode on the dirt road cut for the new subdivision. Daddy had given the developer twenty-five feet so that he could build the road. We always came home in the evening dusty and dirty from the dirt storms we kicked up with sliding bike tires. That was in the early 1960s.
Amy and I live in the first house on that street about 300 hundred feet up the road. We built this house in 1978, and I believe only one other place has been built here since then. Ours is a small neighborhood with modest houses and larger than normal lots. The first house in the subdivision was completed in 1964.
I watched every step of our house’s construction. The original plan called for a two-bedroom house with two bathrooms. A small stoop stood as the front porch, and the back had a screened porch and deck. It was perfect for the two of us and even offered an extra bedroom for the in-laws when they visited.
Over the years, we’ve renovated the kitchen, added a family room, treated ourselves with a gigantic wrap-around front porch, and constructed two bedrooms to accommodate our growing family. A few years ago, Amy and I decided to have a pool built, one of the best things we’ve done to this place. Now, our 1250 square foot house has doubled in size. It’s small by today’s standards, but the nearly two acres ensures us that no one is going to get too close.
The sad thing about an older neighborhood is that we’ve watched as neighbors have moved or passed on. That leaves several empty houses. A house that is abandoned too long loses its life. It’s almost as if the structure sags in loneliness. At one point this summer, five houses were empty on the second street. All but one owner had died. The families were left with the task of boxing up or throwing out a lifetime as they cleared the houses. I’ve done that heartbreaking job more than once. With every stick of furniture or pile of clutter that is hauled out, the life of that place dims a little more.
The good thing about those empty houses is that they bring new neighbors to our little subdivision. We accept all: Black, Hispanic, and young. New homeowners revive a house. They inject new personalities into places. Some who have moved in have small children whose laughter and screams bring a smile to those of us who grew up here in the fifties.
For a while, this old neighborhood was looking sad. I worried that it might become like so many in the area: rundown and lifeless. However, our new neighbors have poured plenty of love and sweat into making these places their own. I’m glad they are here. Welcome new neighbors and friends!
When Amy and I are gone, I’m not sure what will become of this house. Lacey and Dallas will have to make decisions that are best for them. If they do decide to sell, I hope a young family with energy and enthusiasm and love settles here. The thoughts that our house will remain and lively and happy are comforting. It’s important that this place remains a home.