I am finally home from the road for a couple of weeks. To reclaim Covington, I began a long constitutional at sunset this past Monday, three nights from Halloween. I took my old dog-walking route; my old dog, Rosie, passed away last year.
It was a pretty delicious stroll as autumn has finally arrived. The tea olives are busy with their second bursts of blooming, their large fragrance betraying the size of their flowers. The dogwoods are scarlet. The sweet gum trees are golden. The crickets are slowing down for the season. And the world’s most beautiful Osage orange tree is dropping her fruit in our front yard and on our tiny thoroughfare.
Houses in town are ready for the trick-or-treaters. Halloween will bring thousands of kids with their grownups to Conyers and Floyd streets. (Employing the candy census, Dr. Bob Faulkner will know the exact number of children who bound onto his porch, meticulous physician that he is.) On All Hallows’ Eve, my family will “walk the course” as we have done ever since my son Liam outgrew the socially acceptable age of sanctioned begging. Our own house on the hill is too distant from the street for trick-or-treating, shrouded as it is by magnolia trees, wax myrtle, leather leaf and boxwood — the ascent is too great and the biodiversity is too foreboding be worth risking one’s life or soul for a fun size Three Musketeer.
On our Halloween walk, the family joke that spans half my son’s life will be repeated as we pass the former home of our late, sweet friend and neighbor, Martha Lovett, who would say, “I don’t give candy to children taller than I am.” Liam had reached her height when he was 9.
• • •
But this Monday night walk, I went from my house through the cemetery, out the cemetery’s western gate across from the First United Methodist Church.
On to the Square. Without a dog, there’s no stopping. No stopping for obvious reasons, but also no stopping in front Scoops Ice Cream Shop, or Bread and Butter bakery & coffee joint, where the kids in the former, and the teenagers in the latter would pour out to pet Rosie.
On to The Cricket Frog Trail … on to Academy Springs Park … through the old Ginn pasture which is now the developed neighborhood called “Dorchester Place”; the word “Place” was only recently added to the name of the neighborhood, a way of telling people that it is up and running and selling homes.
• • •
Once upon a time …
Landscaping and paving of the old Ginn pasture began in 2006 or 2007. When the housing bubble burst and the recession began in 2008, Dorchester had only seven mostly completed houses, a tiny fraction of what was planned. All the streets were paved and the Victorian-styled street lamps installed. A handsome footbridge had been built over the old cow pond. The neighborhood was lovely, but for a lot of years, mostly empty.
Then, our friend Liz, along with her sons, Cole and Jackson, moved into the seventh house. From that time through the rest of their childhoods, Dorchester utterly belonged to my kid and his friends.
Loblolly pine trees popped up quickly in the neighborhood as loblolly pine trees do. Hawthorn and mimosa trees lined the streets. In those fallow days, mowing only happened once every two weeks. Maypop flowers popped up in between the fields of dandelion. Deer roamed free and rabbits were always about.
From a few yards away, a fox would come and sit and stare at Liz’s house. Liz, an earth goddess, believed it was her animal-aura bringing the fox, but I’m pretty sure the beast was drawn by Liz's 20-year-old cat sleeping on the railing of the porch.
For Liam, Cole, Jackson, and their friend Evan, the empty neighborhood was a bicycle race track. The island of woods in the middle with a creek running through it was their forest of adventure. The blackberries around the pond were theirs for the eating, the footbridge at the lake, their ship. Oblivious to the recession, the boys made the best of a weak economy.
The boys are all in college, now.
These are the things I was thinking about on my long, autumn stroll.