Part One – Getting Acquainted
I arrived at the whole home ownership thing pretty late(r) in life. Instead of graduating college, getting married, buying a house, and having my first child all before I turned thirty, I took a more circuitous route. It’s not like I led some off-the-beaten-path, alternative lifestyle. I still accomplished all of those things, I just took my sweet time getting there.
And sweet it was. I never felt the pull of the current that swept up so many of my other friends to find a husband and settle down in my twenties. I loved being a bridesmaid, and I would be perfectly happy being the one holding a shot and not the bouquet at the end of the night. (Ok, there was that brief stint with the crazy Italian, but that would require its own blog.)
Instead, I always felt a gentle but persistent pounding in my chest at the thought of living in another city, working for a new firm, meeting new people, and scoping out local trendy bars and restaurants. I relished living on my own, attending happy hours with work buddies, traveling on the company dime, and spending my hard earned cash on that handbag I had saved up three months to buy.
As a result, my choices took me on a dizzying journey through dream jobs and dreamy boyfriends. It also took me on a geographical trajectory from Austin to Dallas, Dallas to Munich, on to Chicago, back to Austin, then off to San Francisco, before moving back to San Antonio where, with my husband I had met along the way, finally purchased my first house and had two beautiful boys. We lived in the house for three years, longer than I had ever lived in one place since I left home for college at eighteen.
Relishing the role as “homeowner” and finally having no landlord to answer to, the four walls would become my canvas on which to create as I pleased. No longer employed, I became my own client.
Little did I know when we moved in, the entire experience would become a bit surreal for me.
Olmos Park is a beautiful, historic neighborhood nestled in the Olmos Basin, a lush and quiet oasis just a few miles north of downtown San Antonio. Hundred year old Texas live oaks create majestic canopies down the streets. Everyone knows their neighbors by name, the friendly local police officers drive by at least five times a day and give a friendly wave, ensuring the tranquility of the hood is kept safe and constant.
The homes are idyllic. Families have lived in their 1920’s mansions for decades, often bequeathing them to other family members, thus creating generations of families all living happily together in one neighborhood.
I must note that our home did not fall into this particular category. We live in what I affectionately named the Dodgey End of Olmos Park. We live down by the tracks and a stones throw from the San Antonio Gun Range. Our china rattles and I have to straighten the paintings on the wall when the trains roll by.
Most of the homes on our end are small bungalows built in the sixties, I can only assume for the nannies who outgrew their guest houses up at the mansions. We are the only street in the neighborhood with Democrat signs in our yards come election year. You get the picture.
Life was good. Life was also predictable, constant, and small. The truth is, I was starting to get itchy. My entire life revolved around a five mile radius from my house. Everything I needed, the grocery store, pharmacy, dry cleaner, hardware store, dentist, you name it, they all lived on or near my street.
Even the private school we looked at for the boys was just a bike ride away from our house. Nestled on a hilltop surrounded by trees and overlooking the basin, it was a childhood haven of security and tranquility.
There were “Fiesta Frolics” up at the circle, “Meet the Fireman” BBQs at the local firehouse, and each Saturday morning, the children could safely ride their bikes in the neighborhood where the police would block the roads off to all through traffic so no one would get hit by a car. Sheltered doesn’t begin to describe it.
I swear I was the only woman in the neighborhood who actually mowed her own lawn. Pushing the lawnmower, which I always considered quite therapeutic, would cause people to slow down in their cars and stare at me as if I had two heads.
It even became the topic of conversation at a child’s birthday party one afternoon when a neighbor asked me how my husband “got me” to mow the lawn. He needed to know “his trick”. He’s lucky the punch was spiked, or I would have punched him.
Each morning, on my run through the streets, the city bus would stop outside the perimeters of the neighborhood and I would witness an army of hispanic nannies, most in uniform, who would descend upon the streets of Olmos Park and march to their respective houses to care for the children of the OP. I also noticed they would stare at me as I ran by. I could hear the voices in their heads saying, “Crazy white girl, why are you running in this heat”.
The Truman Show didn’t end there. Our neighbors hired people to do literally everything for them, all from the comforts of their gated homes. There were trucks that came to groom your pooch while parked outside your house, car detailing services to come clean and vacuum your SUV in your drive-way, house cleaners, window cleaners, and pool boys. Personal trainers and pilates instructors would sashay in and out of houses every morning, yoga instructors would be giving classes to a group of moms in the driveway.
Grocery delivery services, dry-clean delivery services, sushi delivery trucks all meandered down the treelined streets daily. Women would have their faces Botoxed all in the comfort of their plush living rooms. The women hired people to buy their clothes and another crew to organize their closets.
These people never had to leave their homes. The most memorable example I saw was a truck parked outside of a house with a big letters that read “We Scoop your Poop”. They couldn’t even be bothered to clean up little Fifo’s mess.
And they couldn’t be bothered to walk. If you were invited to someone’s house for wine, you would simply hop in your golf cart (never mind the fact that we don’t live near an actual golf course) and drive down to your neighbor’s house with a drink in hand.
I discovered this phenomenon when I arrived all hot and sweaty at a neighbor’s house one afternoon for a Mommy Happy Hour. After walking down the street in 95 degree heat pulling my wagon with two kids and a bottle of wine, I was met by my cheery neighbor who hopped out of her golf cart all smiles, hair styled, and not a drop of sweat on her perfectly painted face.
And that was only the beginning of things.