Monday, May 21, 2007

Now I'm gonna pass the mic...

Rather than writing something of my own today, I'm posting a piece written by a friend of mine. It's an interesting take on what makes Columbia Columbia and is particularly relevant to ongoing discussions about change in our city.

I grew up in Columbia and loved it. When comparing my childhood to my brother's (who was still rather young when we moved away) or any of my non-Columbian friends, I have to say that I had it better.

I was a shy kid, which may be the understatement of the century, but had the comfort of living in a neighborhood full of kids my age. I had the privilege of walking to school with a large group, picking up more walkers along the way. When I came home, I had at least a half a dozen kids ready to play in the cul-de-sac or at the totlot. We didn't spend much time in front of the TV or playing Atari.

When we moved to rural Western Howard, it was a rude awakening. There was no one in my neighborhood my age. There was no place to play or meet people. When I met friends at school, we had to contend with finding parents to drive us one way or another and work around parents' work schedules. As a result, I came home and watched TV and read books. I listened to music. I talked on the phone. I didn't socialize much outside of school until friends started to drive.

This past weekend, I was reminded of all the reasons I always loved Columbia. I thought it was just perhaps me idealizing a childhood free of drama and responsibility. Then, hubby and I went biking around Lake Elkhorn and Oakland Mills. We spent a good hour and a half doing laps around the lake, then riding to the first main stretch we came across, picked up another path, wound through a couple of neighborhoods and made it back to the lake. The entire ride was free of car traffic, in close contact with nature, passing families enjoying the same amenities. I can't believe how much I've missed having neighbors.

I love where we live now. I love our house and I am especially grateful for the luxuries it has provided, namely, our gazillion animals. At the same time, I miss feeling connected to other people. I miss having options such as riding my bike to the village center or lake.

About 8 years ago, I had the opportunity to take a peek at my childhood home. I took a tour from the real estate agent who was listing it for sale for the people who had bought it from my parents (of course I kept this info from the agent). I'd always imagined the house to be totally different from when I lived there. I expected different walls, different colors. I walked in and nothing had changed. Same colors. Same carpet in the living room. Same homemade curtains in the basement. 13 years, different family, and the house hadn't changed.

When hubby and I were done biking, we were famished and looking for food. For old times' sake, we went to Vennari's pizza, where my mom used to treat me to a slice of pizza while she was checking out of the SuperThrift. It had always been my favorite.

It tasted just the same.

It's the same with Columbia. Columbia hasn't changed. The demographics may be changing. There may be new houses and new shopping centers. But Columbia is still Columbia. It still offers connections to people. It still has some of the best amenities the region has to offer, with its open space and community facilities. All this talk and arguing over whether or not a 23 story building will destroy the character of the city that Rouse built is a waste of time.

A lot has changed in the 18 years since I left Columbia. But Columbia hasn't changed. And I don't think it ever will.

1 comment:

FreeMarket said...

Right on. Awesome post!