Not long ago, I returned to Rabbit Hill with my brother and his best friend Mike. We were in town to attend an open house at the elementary school we all attended, which had just completed a major renovation. Mike suggested we start by walking back to Rabbit Hill and then walking the three quarters of a mile to the school, for old times’ sake.
I had been back a few times before, and knew that time had not been kind to the old neighborhood. When we lived there, families took some pride in their properties. Some owners had extensive gardens, others had perfect lawns, and a few had built additions. Today, many of these houses are rentals, and residents come and go. The houses get minimal maintenance and the yards are optimized for easy care.
This was our house. In the years since we moved away, other houses got new windows and vinyl siding. But our old house got none of that, and remains the most original example on the street. Even the mailbox is the same as when we lived there. The only changes are cosmetic – the trim, once black, is now blue and the entry door has been painted. Oh, and the garage door has been replaced. I can still imagine Dad’s 1966 Ford parked in the driveway.
This is where Robyn, Sally, and Mary lived. The house was forest green with white trim then. Their dad landscaped the yard with a flowering crabapple tree and rosebushes, and he frequently puttered around in his yard keeping things in good trim. This house has the same layout as the one we lived in, even though the bedroom windows are placed differently. (I was playing here when a tornado touched down not far away; read that story.)
Michael and Danny lived in this house. It was painted gold with black trim back in our day. There were two three-bedroom floor plans in our neighborhood, one smaller and one larger, and this is the larger one. Michael’s dad manicured that lawn, and even pushed a heavy roller up and down that hill several times each year to keep the ground flat.
Darin lived here with his brother Craig and his sister Dawn. This is the same floor plan as our house and Robyn, Sally, and Mary’s, except that the bedrooms were on the left rather than the right. The back yard sloped steeply downward and seemed to go on forever. I’m sure if I went back there today it would seem remarkably small.
This is where my brother’s best friend Mike lived, with his sisters Tammy and Dawn. This house was identical to ours inside, and even had the widely spaced bedroom windows. In our time, the bedroom windows were the same drafty aluminum-framed kind in our house; someone upgraded them somewhere along the way.
This is the Secret Sidewalk, a narrow path that provided a shortcut to another street in the neighborhood. All of us walked along it every day on our way to school. A mulberry tree used to stand along it; when the berries were ripe, we picked and ate as many as we could reach. Not only is the mulberry tree gone, but the path needs to be edged and the hedges need to be cut way back.
It was strange that not a soul was outside on this pleasant autumn afternoon. No children were playing and no adults were working in their yards. That would never have been the case when I lived here. Maybe the families who live here now just aren’t making the most of their neighborhood. We sure did when we lived here. I think it shows that a neighborhood is as good as its residents choose to make it be.
I lived on this street when I started school. My mother walked with me on my first day, and it’s remarkable how that walk parallels my faith journey. Read the story.