Monday, March 31, 2008

I love our neighborhood

I really do. We've lived in this particular neighborhood for almost 11 years. We bought our first house, all 800 square feet of it, a month after we got married. When it was time for a larger house, we waited until we found one in the 'hood that we liked, which meant that we moved about half a mile south of our old house. At the time of the move, our current house, at 1550 square feet, seemed like a mansion. Of course, back then we only had one kid, not three, so there was plenty of room to spare.

But I digress.

Our neighborhood isn't one of the "glamorous" ones, and we don't have the most desirable zip code in town - that would be 78704, at least according to those who live in it - but it's got its own character and feel to it. Most of the houses were built in the late '40s and early '50s and most started life as 2 bedroom, 1 bath cottages. There are still some original residents, and it's interesting to hear about their experiences raising families in the little tiny houses. I think most parents today shudder at the thought of sharing a bathroom with their children, I know I do, but that's exactly what those families did. And they all lived to tell the tales.

Our house started as one of the two bedroom cottages, but someone who owned it previous to us added on a master bedroom and bathroom and ginormous closet, for which I am eminently grateful.

But all this isn't why I love our neighborhood.

I love it because of the people who live here. Everyone I meet and talk to loves living in this little section of Austin. They take pride in our area. We have two very committed neighborhood organizations that sponsor things like lighting luminarias along the main street through the 'hood at Christmas. If you've never seen a mile-long line of candles at night, I highly recommend it.

For the past five springs, the neighborhood associations for our area have sponsored a big day at the park called the Violet Crown Festival. There were bands and artisans and lots of food and kids' activities and a dunking booth and a silent auction. The proceeds all went to pay for what is called the Wall of Welcome.

I should add here that one of the cool things about our area is our neighborhood shopping center. It's got a little grocery store that's been owned by the same family since it opened, more than 50 years ago. It's got a family owned pharmacy run by a dad and his two sons. The dad has owned the store since it opened. It's also got a dry cleaner, barber shop and deli (which wins food awards). The shopping center really is the heart of our area - you can't go there and not run into someone you know. It's a real throwback to what Austin used to be like.

Back to the Wall of Welcome, which is really what this whole post is about.

For five years, an artist named Jean Graham has worked on this huge mosaic that covers the wall behind the shopping center. Neighborhood residents contributed tiles and turned out to help her put everything in place. It's a source of real pride for everyone here.

This Saturday was the official unveiling of the wall, and the neighborhood turned out in force to celebrate. I was amazed at how many people were there - several hundred, at least. And they all came out just to visit and enjoy the event. The kids had a grand time running around with friends from school and making violet crowns in the art tent. There was food and music and jugglers. I got all teary eyed at the sight of everyone there.

The event made me realized, again, that we have picked the right place to live and raise our family, even if we are outgrowing our house. I can't imagine living anywhere else in Austin.

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