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Rabbit Hill today

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.

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4 thoughts on “Rabbit Hill today

  1. Nancy [ Roe ] Stewart says:

    Hi Jim. Just want to tell you that I enjoy your writing very much. So many good memories from Lancaster Drive. Good to see that the little maple tree that Mike’s Granpa Frank planted in front of our house is now a nice big tree all decked out in orange fall leaves. I’m very glad that Mike and Rick have remained such good friends all these years. Denise’s brother David is a friend of Tammy’s husband so we see him pretty often. And Rachel was the younger of the two sisters between your house and ours. The older sister was Shannon. She and Tammy would do things together sometimes. It was good seeing you and your parents at the Monroe School open house. I was a little teary-eyed that day tho because it was such a perfect fall day like so many days that I had walked over to meet the kids after school. It felt as tho if I could just sit down on the east steps and close my eyes that when I opened them I would be back to one of those days and they would be small again. Thanks for helping bring back some of the memories.

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    • Nancy, I am touched and pleased that you read my blog.

      How could I have forgotten Shannon’s name? And of course she was the older sister.

      Touring Monroe, I was ten years old again. I remember many crisp autumn noontimes when I would walk home for lunch and find Mom laying out a sandwich and a bowl of soup for me. I would have loved to do that just one more time. Lancaster Drive was a great place to be a little boy. I wish my sons could have experienced such a place, and that their lives could be as uncomplicated as mine was then.

      Like

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