Those of you who know me know of my affection for 17th century French philosopher, mathematician and scientist Blaise Pascal. But today a quote from a 19th century French novelist, Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, comes to mind.
Karr is credited with adding to our lexicon the phrase, "the more things change, the more they remain the same." And today change, and how things can sometimes remain the same despite change, is heavy on my mind.
To my great sorrow, I've watched as a house on Newton Drive was rent asunder by a construction crew. It was a simple frame house, built in the 1940's or 1950's, situated on a small plot of land located south of the ever-expanding Newton Medical Center. One of only two frame houses left as the parking lots necessary for our hospital expanded, it most likely will be gone by the time your paper arrives this morning.
That house had a fireplace, with smoke stains visible over the top of the brick opening. Every spring the prettiest patch of wildflowers you ever saw in your life would blossom there in the front yard. I don't know the family who spent a lifetime there, but I know for the last 31 years I've enjoyed going down Newton Drive to see those flowers bloom. I'll miss them, until Alzheimer's or something else robs that memory from me.
Yet, even as I despair over the loss of the Newton Drive house, there's another one on Phedora Street, at the corner with Dearing Street, which now has a brand new three-way stop. Someone, over the last few months, has undertaken to restore that little frame house. It sports a side porch and new siding, and has been turned from what was becoming a derelict property into a precious little home.
And I guess the guts of what I wanted to say here, in the original extravagance of words normally allotted me each Sunday, is tied to the tale of those two houses.
The first house has fallen victim to growth in our neck of the woods. Covington, located 25 miles east of the interstate perimeter encircling the burgeoning metropolitan area of Atlanta, is no different from any other little place bordering any other burgeoning metropolitan area in America. Cities grow, suburbs become urban, outlying rural areas become suburban, and so forth, and so on.
The difference is that this is home to us. This we didn't ask for, yet it has come our way. Along with traffic issues and building more schools and dealing with what seems to be a murder a day, all of a sudden growth affects us in a personal, abiding way.
It changes the way we live. It changes the way we view life. It rocks our world. It obliterates everything we've worked for, every comfort zone we've sought to attain in our old age, every last thing we thought we'd do in the "golden years" we have left.
The second house, though, gives me some hope for the future. Somebody, and I have intentionally not found out who it is inhabiting that house on Phedora, has decided to live in a place that was once the epitome of what made America great, and to make it great, again.
Sixty years ago families lived in modest structures, on small plots of land. They visited with each other, and grew tomato plants and corn and squash out back on those small plots of land. A man and his wife raised their kids, lived within their means, did what was right, and helped America become the greatest nation this Earth has ever seen.
Inexorable growth has overseen the demise of a testimony to that era on Newton Drive. But, on the other hand, it has seen a revival on Phedora. On Wheat Street, and in little streets all along the main thoroughfare in neighboring Porterdale, folks have found wonderfully crafted old homes which only need a little love and care to restore them to their former beauty.
And I guess what I want to say today is tied to those two houses. Progess, as defined in America of today, has brought about a great loss on Newton Drive. Yet it has seen a revival, in a sense, of what made America great on Phedora Street.
The more things change, the more they remain the same. I can only hope, friend, that the future remains bright not only for those of us in what was once tiny Covington, but for our nation, and for the world.
Nat Harwell is a Newton County resident whose column appears Sundays in The Covington News.