I sit here in my partially renovated 1880s-era Southtown house, soaking in the quiet. So calm and peaceful with no kids in the neighborhood. Well, that’s because it’s 10 am and they’re all at school. If I were to write this at 3:30 pm, well, I wouldn’t. There would be too many distractions - kids laughing, kids playing in the street, kids chasing the dog in the yard, kids playing on our trampoline, or slide, or playhouse or, in the summer, our pool, kids going back and forth between houses on the block, like they’re all part of one family.
But, “No families live downtown.”
And so, coming back to my computer late at night, it went today. By 4pm, at least 10 neighborhood kids were in our yard playing, and a few non neighborhood kids who come to Southtown because “this is where all the fun is.” In the summer this is a weekly event. In the winter, it’s about once per month, not including all the other impromptu events with kids.
Every day we walk our older child to the neighborhood school, with smiles and cheers for our beloved crossing guards. We watch a neighbor ride his bike to school, another ride his scooter with his dad – a teacher at the local school, and 2 younger sisters, while my 3 year old follows along on his tricycle. Just a few of many kids on foot or bike.
But there are no kids in Southtown.
And then there’s KWAKs – King William Area Kids, a group organized to get parents in Southtown together for fun and kid activities. These include bike rides on the Riverwalk (we don’t even have to get in a car), nature walks and scavenger hunts along the river, Easter egg hunts, picnics at Chris Park, and, for the one activity that requires getting in a car – a neighborhood campout. The first campout was so much fun, that the second annual campout spots filled up in a matter of hours.
I wonder if the kids I see every day are really invisible, since one reporter believes, from driving around, that “no kids live in Southtown.”
If we “young professionals” or “aging hipsters” fancy a beer and a bite, we head over to The Friendly Spot. So friendly it has a playground and on any given day a ton of kids running around. Or to Alamo Street Eat Bar, where the neighborhood kids come up with elaborate, creative games while eating gyros or bahn mi. Or we walk for a taco at Taco Haven. And then, we walk home. Walk? You know, that thing you do with two feet, that doesn’t require a vehicle, gas, emissions and all that fun stuff.
I think Southtown must be filled with aliens under 4 ft tall, since no human kids live here. Or so says one local reporter.
For those of us who come from far away lands, with no family nearby, we learned the value of a community. We know that, should I require an emergency hospital stay while the other parent of my children is out of the country, there is no hesitation. My children have “extended” family – not blood relations, but neighbors, friends – who will take them in in a heartbeat. We know that, when we have other health or family crises, or when we just need a mental health break, our neighborhood community is there to step in and help – so many in fact that we have to say “Thanks but we’re covered for now.”
But there is no “community” in Southtown, “it's basically an apartment complex spread across several blocks of tree-covered lots. It will not evolve.”
I moved to Southtown as a single young professional, when it was far edgier and far less hip than it is now. I later met someone, fell in love, bought a house around the corner from my rental in Southtown; had kids, and am now raising them in our beloved Southtown, among what my 6 year old describes as her “family.” In her mind, Southtown is one big commune, and all her neighbors – including those without kids, including those straight, gay, single, married and all colors of the rainbow – are her family.
Southtown has evolved. It has evolved back to what it was in its earliest days: a community of people who share their lives, and a place where my kids know they belong. It will continue to evolve. It will evolve so that our kids’ kids can live here too.
But, apparently none of us really exist, since “there will never be herds of little kids riding bicycles to the corner store or playing street football.” Except, oops, there go those kids riding their bikes and playing football in the street.