So, the thing is... I'm ready to plant a few trees.


July 27th marked our first year in this house.  One whole year, I can't believe it.  I found it in May of 2000 but we didn't close on it until the end of July.  Since I was on bed rest by then, my whole family came down to move us.  They literally picked me up and moved me, just like one additional (very cranky) piece of furniture.  And then they stuck around and UNPACKED us.  It was unbelievable.  I've never seen people work so hard.


I love this house.  I actually bought it before my husband had ever seen it --putting in a full-price offer some three hours after it had gone on the market, which tells you something about real estate in Austin (at least last year.)  Actually, my husband wasn't that bowled over by it once he saw it.  I don't know, he said.  I guess I thought if we were spending this much money, it would have...STABLES or something.  But I knew. 


I just knew.  I could see us there --our kids growing big and driving cars with which they littered the driveway.  I could see Ana getting dressed for the Prom and leaving from our front door while her dad ran the video camera and muttered threats to her date under his breath.  Always, there would be the sounds of slamming screen doors and sneakers on the wooden decks.  There would be frozen juice Popsicles in those little Tupperware things and burials for the family pets who died of old age (and in the cat's case, meanness.)  Goldfish we have to flush. Endless wet towels and pool parties.  Tears from freshly broken adolescent hearts. Laughter and cookouts, tents pitched under the trees out back.  Fireflies.  Big sloppy dogs, extra phone lines, our kid's growth charted on the walls.  Lots of music and lots of love.  The house already has it.  Its a wonderful house.


We moved from a terrific house, too.  Just a TINY terrific house --definitely not big enough for a family of four.  Well, actually, the HOUSE wasn't so great.  It was more than fifty years old with only one small bathroom, inadequate insulation and the laundry facilities out back.  But the NEIGHBORS were amazing. 


There was the woman who kept the goat (no lie).  There was the nice couple that lived catty-corner to us; she was a hairdresser and had a greenhouse in her back yard, much to my envy.  He was a banker by day and a serious cyclist at all other times.  Next to them was the RV Granny, who drove her camper all over Texas and everywhere else.  She lived next to the Ken and Barbie couple --he owned a huge chain of barbecue restaurants and she was a flight attendant and together, they were about the most beautiful specimens of humans I've ever seen in real life.  My next-door neighbor was Doc, who is still the best neighbor I've ever had.  Next door to him, Luke and Tracy.  Luke is a chef/caterer and Tracy is a woman with the greenest thumb ever, not to mention an amazing talent for welding.  They also had the coolest dog -- one of those collie/border collie mixes that are so smart they seem to speak English. And down at the end of the street lived another young family, with one boy just a few weeks younger than Ana, who became (and still is) her best friend, Aaron.


I didn't meet everyone all at once.  I was pregnant and working the first year I lived there.   But then, over the next six months or so, I would take Ana out in the stroller and I'd usually have the dog with me, too, so we were a funny little parade and people started talking to us. Once Ana started walking, I REALLY met people fast.  She was like an ambassador --she was so cute.  Because the majority of people on the street worked in non-traditional jobs, they were home during the day and they'd walk over if Ana was running through the sprinkler or doing sidewalk chalk.  (Tracy once told my husband he was the only person she knew who got up and went to work every morning!)


So, we all got to know each other and we all became friends.  We'd put each other's dogs back when they escaped and loan each other garden tools.  For Christmas one year, Luke and Tracy wrapped the huge tree in their front yard with miles of green lights and then hung red ornaments from it.  It was so pretty that I (inspired by some red wine, of course) came up with this Cristo-esque holiday effort and we ALL wrapped our big trees in green lights and hung different colors of ornaments from them.  We called it the Ford Street Forest.  I loved our neighbors so much that for my 35th birthday, I threw a big block party and we just had a BLAST.  For the first time in my life, I felt like I had roots somewhere.  I fit in.


Of course, I was already pregnant with Jane at that point.  I got put on bed rest and Luke and Tracy made me dinner for days on end and took care of Ana until we could line up a series of loaner nannies.  I found our new house in between bed rest stints and we moved over here but I never really got a chance to say goodbye to everyone. We sold the Ford Street house to a young couple just starting out.  For a while, I kept up with Luke and Tracy but we never could quite find a good time to get together.  Our (new) house isn't the clubhouse for Ford Street anymore.


I've met a few of my neighbors on our new street, but mostly, the people on this street aren't home during the day or if they are, they stay to themselves.  There aren't any kids as young as Ana and Jane, although I keep hoping this will change.  It's a different type of neighborhood, even though it's only about two miles from where we used to live.  It's more suburban over here, more conformist.  The last week of my pregnancy with Jane, when I was finally able to get out of bed, we had a cool spell and I opened the windows and cranked Aretha on the stereo so I could dance in the kitchen.  Then I saw my neighbors out in their yard and hurriedly turned the volume down.  (And then I got mad and turned it back up.)


Recently, I stopped by the old street to see Doc. (We keep up via e-mail.)  Doc was just recovering from a virus so I didn't stay long.  But I saw the guy who bought our house outside doing lawn work.  He offered me a tour --the lawn just looked incredible.  They'd taken out those obnoxious hedges that lined the front walkway, and added some really tasteful landscaping.


They'd also taken out the tree I planted on Ana's first birthday.


He was a little apologetic about it but said that they had taken out several other trees and wanted an unbroken expanse of yard.  I said I understood, ducking my head to hide the tears in my eyes.


And on the way home, I had a bit of an epiphany. 


They really weren't just taking care of that house for us until we could discharge our duties as parents and move back over to be hip and happening again. 


That chapter of our lives is over now.  And I need to stop resenting the people on our new street for not being the people on our old street.  It's up to ME to put down some roots and connect with another little community of people where we live now.  It's time for me to stop railing against the people who live over here for being so hopelessly grown up.  I'm one of them now, even though I still feel like a goofy twenty-year-old inside.


It's time to take off my hat and decide to stay a while -- time to put down some new roots.


It's time to plant some new trees.



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(c) Barbara Cooper 2001


Barbara Cooper is the mother of Ana (3) and Jane (nine months).  She lives in Austin, Texas and she believes that every child should have a tree planted for him/her.