In the Houston suburb where we lived, our subdivision was just a few years old. The streets were a maze of cookie-cutter houses and square box back yards. Nearly every house had the same anemic-looking pine tree planted in the front yard; some ambitious homeowners would add a palm or two.
There were only two entrances into our neighborhood, both from 45-mile/hour roads. The schools were close, but all three campuses (elementary, jr, and high) were pulled back from the road into their own kind of compound, and were not accessible by a sidewalk. Our two choices for getting to the school on foot involved crossing through an unofficial path along a neighbor’s property, then through a massive ditch (called a bayou there), or else you could take your chances along the shoulder of the 45-mile an hour road.
We had a small strip mall adjacent to our neighborhood, outfitted with the strange combination of a church, a Montessori preschool, nail salon, and fast food Chinese restaurant (with drive thru).
Our neighborhood also had two small parks, usually frequented by teenagers, and a small pool, often overflowing with little kids and inattentive parents in the summer.
Here in the Portland suburb where we’ve moved back to, our neighborhood was established in the mid-1970′s. The main streets wind and twist along, peppered with cul-de-sacs left and right. The trees are taller than the houses and are of several different species – oak, pine (several kinds), maple, juniper, and more.
You can get in and out of our neighborhood on a few different roads, all capped at 25-miles/hour. Our property is just one back yard away from both the high school and elementary school, and there are at least two established, paved, marked paths for the neighborhood kids to take to school. But lucky us, our neighbors just let the kids walk through their side fence directly onto school property. It takes them about 3 minutes to get to class.
There are 18 acres of green space with private, meandering walking paths – meadowed and tree-lined – shared between the 225 houses here.
At the slightest whim, I can walk or drive a quick 1.3 miles to the nearest shopping center, which has a Dollar Tree, Jo-Ann Fabric, Payless Shoes, Target, Safeway, Red Robin, and more. And I always find good parking.
I’m amazed by the differences between these two neighborhoods where we’ve lived. Even the sounds are different. Gone is the traffic noise or the booming bass of a passing car. When I sit in my living room now, I’m more likely to hear all the songbirds in the mature trees, or the squirrels on my roof or rustling the leaves as they jump from tree to tree. I hear everything that happens at the schools – soccer on the weekends, recess on the weekdays, marching band on the weeknights. We even hear the predictable train horns as the nearby railroad runs through their schedule and the planes overhead coming to and from the small regional airport.
Our older, established neighborhood looks, feels, and sounds so different from the busy, bustling, sprawling neighborhood we just moved from. And I think the change is suiting me just fine.