Saturday, February 7, 2009

Concrete connections

Taking Mr. James for a walk on a perfectly gorgeous day - one more like April or May, not February, dimming the memory of a 10-degree morning just four days ago - I was reminded of why I was drawn to this neighborhood almost 30 years ago.

To be sure, it was partly the charm of the 1920s homes, the value for the money, the small yards that would be quick to mow and the appeal of features like hardwood floors, arched doorways and crown molding everywhere. (That last item, by the way, became much less attractive when it was time to paint...)

But what really tipped the scale for me was something far more pedestrian. Literally.


The sidewalks in our neighborhood encourage intermingling among the residents of homes along the street. They give the adults a route for a summer evening stroll or a brisk hike to the bus stop, and the children a guided path to friends and new experiences.

When our kids were little, every summer Saturday brought a cavalcade of bikes, trikes and Big Wheels as the neighborhood youngsters traveled safely up and down the cement corridors for hours on end. Sidewalks also defined a boundary the kids generally respected, although I do remember a neighbor mom's challenge keeping an adventuresome preschooler out of the street after a block party closed the road for an evening, calling the sidewalk's barrier power into question.

Today's scarier times and scheduled activities have reduced the neighborhood Big Wheel traffic somewhat, and tree roots beneath have cracked some of the concrete slabs. Insufferable spiny balls that comprise the bumper crop of droppings from sweet gum trees that line our street make the trip hazardous for the inattentive.

But our sidewalks still carry moms pushing strollers and people like me walking dogs. The dogs sniff each other, the people exchange friendly greetings, and we go along our way feeling like we're part of a community.


Erin Kiekbusch said...

Ummmm I love this post. Probably because I WAS one of those neighbor kids on my big wheel (a poweder puff bigwheel to be exact). I love how you summarized that draw to the neighborhood. I always struggle to explain why I love our neighborhood and why I one day want to raise my own kids there. Now I know exactly how to answer....sidewalks. :-)

LO said...

You were indeed part of the Big Wheel brigade. One of its organizers, as I recall...

I might add that the friendly and interesting people who live here -- particularly on either side of us! and used to live on the other side of you -- are most definitely a key element of the neighborhood's character.