This afternoon we close on the sale of our home in New Albany, Ohio. We’ll move out later this week, hand the keys over to the new owners, and just like that our 19-year sojourn in the North of Woods neighborhood of New Albany will be ended.
Yesterday Kish and I were madly packing up clothing, books, dishes, and the contents of our cupboards in preparation for the move. It’s one of those basic chores that fully occupies your lower brain function — you have to pay enough attention to make sure that the boxes are securely packed, after all — but leaves the upper brain free to roam. In this instance, my mind naturally turned to the notion of chapters ending, and new chapters beginning.
I tend not to be sentimental about homes; people and experiences are far more meaningful to me than structures. Even so, I’ll miss this tidy wooden house where we watched the boys grow up, where we have put down deep roots and have such a strong sense of place and belonging. We’ll miss our neighbors and the annual Halloween celebrations, we’ll miss the white fences, we’ll miss our walks to the library and around the block with Penny and Kasey, and we’ll miss seeing the ‘hood continue to grow and develop.
But, it’s time to move on. Today is another step in the process.
Last night, a “Coming Soon” sign went up in our front yard, announcing to the world that we will be listing our house for sale in a few days. We put it out just in time for the trick-or-treat block party, so we could let all of our neighbors know at the same time.
We’ve had 19 wonderful years on our little cul-de-sac in New Albany. They began when our kids were both little tow-headed tykes under 10, when most of the lots around us were unsold and undeveloped, and when the newly planted trees around our lot were scrawny little things. The years rolled by, the boys grew up, the empty lots around us filled with houses, and the houses filled with families. Now Richard and Russell are adults and our North of Woods development is a mature neighborhood with towering trees and the happy sounds of children playing. It’s hard to believe, but Kish and I have now spent one-third of our lives here. That’s longer than I’ve lived anywhere else.
Through it all, this frame house has been the dependable physical center of our family. We bought it when it was being built and we had the chance to add the features we wanted, and we’ve been the only family to live here. It’s never given us a single problem. As empty nesters, though, we don’t need a four-bedroom house any more, and we’ve concluded that it’s time to hand this happy home off to another family with young kids that is looking to become part of a terrific, family-friendly place with great neighbors.
As for Kish and me, we’re intrigued by the thought of returning to the more urban lifestyle we had when we lived on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. back in the 1980s, to a smaller place that better suits our two-person, two-dog group. After 19 years, we’re ready for a new adventure.
Red cones in the morning, North of Woods take warning!
Well, that’s not quite a saying, but whenever you see red cones across the streets in our North of Woods neighborhood on a weekend morning, you know there’s another walking, running, or biking event going on in New Albany. Today, it’s part of the Challenge New Albany series and is a triathlon competition, so on our walk today Kasey and I saw lots of runners and bikers — and even the full complement of the New Albany Mounted Patrol, which was out in full force.
Having our streets blocked regularly is a pain, but I’ve grown reconciled to it over the years. Our neighborhood is one of the most centrally located in New Albany, within easy walking distance of the “downtown” Market Street area and the golf course. Traffic detours and red cones now and then are just part of the price we pay for being close to the library and the post office, and we wouldn’t trade that proximity for anything.
Kasey, Penny and I were at the edge of North of Woods at the beginning of our morning walk when my attention was drawn by sudden movement up ahead. What the? What appeared to be a dog loped into view and stood in a neighbor’s front yard, dimly visible in the moonlight. Penny and Kasey both began straining at their leashes. I waited, thinking the dog’s owner would come walking up behind — but no owner came. The dog was off the leash and on its own.
My heart began pounding and my mind began churning. Could it be a coyote? No, too big. It was some kind of large dog that looked like a very skinny German or Belgian Shepherd, with upright ears and the familiar Shepherd head. Although Kasey barked, the dog didn’t, and I remember the Philosopher King of the Fifth Floor saying once that the dogs that bite try to come upon you silently. Could it be a stray that might attack, or even a rabid dog? If so, what should I do? I braced myself and considered the options.
I decided that standing still and holding back the dogs was the best option. Pose no apparent threat, make no movement that might be misinterpreted, and let the dog make the first move. After a few moments the dog began moving back and forth, then darted around us and disappeared into the darkness. We moved forward, but every one of my civilization-dulled hunter-gatherer senses stayed on high alert to detect the dog’s return.
After we completed the Yantis Loop we returned to our North of Woods neighborhood, near the place of the dog’s sudden appearance, and my adrenalin surged again. I scanned the darkened streets and held my breath as we passed through deep shadow, hoping that the dog would not lunge out at us from a hiding place in the gloom. It didn’t. Fortunately, the dog was gone.
It turned out to be a small incident among countless uneventful early morning walks, but it was a jolt nevertheless. It felt good to close the front door behind us.
This morning is the ninth annual New Albany Walking Classic. It’s the largest walking-only race in the United States and one of the signature events of Healthy New Albany. You’ll see the intense, heel-toe, Olympic-style walkers bouncing along at breakneck pace, followed by the measured gait of dedicated walking club members, and finally the casual walkers out for a nice stroll past a golf course and through a pretty suburban neighborhood.
The course also goes right by our North of Woods neighborhood, which means we’re blocked in for the duration of the event. On our walk this morning we saw that the signs were up, the orange directional cones were in place, and the guys scurrying around on golf carts were doing whatever it is they do.
This year — rather than runing the risk of another silly confrontation with overly officious Boy Scout leaders bent on preventing me from driving out of the neighborhood before the event even begins, as has happened in years past — I got up extra early, moved my car to a safe parking place away from the walking course, and walked back to feed the dogs and take them for our morning jaunt.
Let the Walking Classic begin!
When we moved to New Albany in 1996, we planted a small pine tree in our back yard. At that time, our neighborhood was basically a bare expanse with some houses here and there, and the little conifer was part of an effort to add some texture and definition to our neck of North of Woods.
Every year since then, without fail, the little pine tree has grown a few feet. Now it is a little tree no longer. I’m not sure exactly how tall it has grown — 40 feet? 50 feet? — but it is the tallest tree in the ‘hood, and towers over our back yard. It’s hard to believe it once was little, but time has a way of having that kind of effect on things.
It works with birthdays, too — you remember the little sapling, and the next thing you know it is fully developed, mature, and holding its own in the forest of life.
I like the ethereal feel of twirly lights in bare trees as a general rule, but I particularly like how these creative neighbors set things up so that the twirly lights in the trees are linked with the lights along the roofline.
Many of our neighbors in the North of Woods section of New Albany have put up their holiday lights, and the neighborhood looks great. Kish loves Christmas lights, and I agree with her — seeing the pretty displays in the morning and returning from work in the evening makes the world seem a bit more bright and cheerful. I’ll be posting pictures of some of our neighbors’ colorful creations between now and Christmas.
This morning is the New Albany Walking Classic.
That means that our neighborhood in the North of Woods section, which is right at the one-mile marker, will be blocked off and inaccessible to cars as thousands of walkers of different sizes, shapes, and capabilities walk past, take a tour around New Albany, and then come back again. We and our neighbors always wonder what would happen if someone had a medical issue or got an emergency call and had to leave during the Classic. Fortunately, that hasn’t happened. We just try to plan things so that we can hole up in our houses as the hordes power-walk past — and it does give us something to chat with the neighbors about.
There’s always lots of entertainment for the walkers: the high school band, cheerleaders from nearby schools, a string quartet, and rock musicians all have their little performance areas set up. Although it’s a bit inconvenient for some of us, it’s a good event for the community and brings a lot of people here.