The Home Team / Changing of the guard
Turning back onto my block on the home stretch of my walk with Ricky the beagle, I'm taken aback to see a Coldwell Banker sign hanging in the front yard of the first house on the right. Not that a "For sale" sign is anything out of the ordinary in this town; there's one, in fact, on the McMansion next door to us -- an edifice that's been under construction for the better part of the past decade, or so it seems. No, the thing that struck me about the Coldwell Banker house is that its owners are the last of our original neighbors from when we moved onto our semi-circular block 23 years ago. When that house turns over, the mantle of seniority will pass on to . . . us. The changing of the guard will be complete.
I can still remember the stunned expressions on the faces of the movers when they off-loaded the furniture they'd driven from our Upper West Side apartment. It's not that our house is anything so special: It's a typical, traditional, 70-year-old colonial -- the kind you'll find all over these parts. But when you put it all together -- the house, the quiet tree-lined street, this whole gorgeous town -- there was no doubt in my mind what the movers were thinking: Why would these guys have been living in that cramped dump in the city when they could move to a place like this?
Toward the end of that stressful day, I felt the need to go for a run. It was a beautiful, late-June afternoon, and -- completely by dumb luck -- I wound up at Southport Harbor. And I remember thinking: Holy moly -- I've moved into a picture postcard!
Back then, it was the custom on our block for the family who'd moved in last to throw a welcome party for the newcomers. It was one of those warm, neighborly traditions that unfortunately, over time, has bitten the dust. Also back then, ours was a neighborhood with no mailboxes. Puzzled by this, I asked the people across the street; they said since mailboxes were so often vandalized, they opted for a P.O. box instead. I never really bought that story: In 20-plus years, I haven't seen a vandal on our block. I suspect the "original settlers" enjoyed the ritual of their daily trip to the quaint little old-fashioned Greens Farms Post Office to pick up their mail. For the record, we were the first to install a mailbox. Now all nine houses on the block have them.
Yes, things have changed. In the house to our right lived a tall, white-haired gentleman who used to be Santa at the neighborhood Christmas party -- another tradition that's fallen by the wayside. He passed away a few years ago, and his wife moved to a condo in town. The house became a tear-down, and is now the McMansion noted above.
A classmate of my youngest son lives in the house to our left. Honestly, I can't remember the name of the family who lived there when we arrived -- only that the wife used to sit on her front steps on Halloween night dressed as a witch, scaring the neighborhood kids half to death. And directly across the street from us was a kid named Brandon who used to play basketball and baseball and football in the yard with my oldest son. Now there's another little kid in that house, Brett, who's also really into sports, but Brandon moved to Massachusetts a long time ago, and would be about 30 now.
Our first baby-sitter in town, Kevin, also conveniently lived on our block. He was a teenager then -- which would make him almost 40 now. The family who currently lives in his former house has a little girl named Maggie and a little dog named Gidget. The neighbors on the far end of our semi-circle moved to Tennessee almost 20 years ago. I don't even think I could name all the families who've occupied that house since then. Oh, and the house diagonally across the street from us? That's for sale, too. Three homes out of nine, looking for new owners.
So yes, I guess time marches on. It makes me wonder if there'll be a day somewhere down the road when older versions of Brett and Maggie and their neighborhood pals point at our house and say, remember that family with the three boys who were always doing sports in their yard? And the dad, who was always walking that cute little beagle?
Westporter Hank Herman shares his Home Team column every other Friday in the Westport News.