Monday, November 8, 2010

Houses and Communities, "Eighteen in Webster Groves"


In Aaron Brown’s blog, MinnesotaBrown, and his weekend Hibbing Tribune column, he writes about homes that have a sense of permanence and about unremarkable houses hastily constructed. He comments that “the great peoples of the earth build for the future, not for the moment.” My Norwegian grandfather called in carpenters to his farm in West Central Minnesota one hundred years ago to build a sturdy farm house. My mother was seven at the time and remembered the construction. The house has been well maintained over the years and is there today, one mile east of Donnelly.

Back in the 1970s when our growing family relocated from the copper mines of Arizona to coal company headquarters in St. Louis, we settled in an established community on old Route 66, where downtown workers had lived and commuted by rail since the 1904 World’s Fair. In the corporate world of St. Louis I shifted between several companies and decided not to leave the area for another mining camp. Finally, when retirement became an option in the Spring of 1995, I wrote the following letter to our neighbors for the local Webster-Kirkwood Times:

"We sold our house the other day, and the 'SOLD' sign was attached two days later. Much thought and planning went into the decision to sell and move from this comfortable old city. We had arrived eighteen years ago with a new job, children, and pets. We settled into West Cedar Avenue where the neighbors knew each other. Now the job has ended with retirement. The children have all grown up, married, and relocated at a distance. The pets have died and been replaced with Beagle and Kitty.

The eighteen years have been full and fruitful for a Mom and a Dad, their kids, their activities, the house and garden. As we move about this tall three-story building to prepare for our departure, all manner of memories come to life and play across the yard, sound the piano, and fill the elegant dining room. Cartons are filled, furniture is sold off, and last minute building inspector violations (handrails never installed, etc.) get fixed. A living home is being prepared for the next family with kids. It is Grandma and Grandpa who are moving out and selling to the next Mom and Dad with children to fill the five bedrooms.

We are leaving this neighborhood of friends for a lakeside home near far-off Brainerd, Minnesota, a state we left exactly thirty years ago and now rejoin. Born in the Northland to Scandinavian parents, we head up river like salmon towards a smaller city on the same Mississippi River. Yes, it gets cold there, but we’ve enjoyed all the seasons before and are ready to enjoy them some more.

Before we actually close the deal and load the moving van, a few thoughts are in order about this special place where “Eighteen” is not so very long a time at all. It has been a fine place to raise children and get acquainted with a lot of their friends’ parents, as well as all sorts of other neighbors. Whether the subject is shrubs and flowers, running and cycling, Black History and city charters, solid waste and crows, or art galleries and sidewalk dining, this place is never lacking for people to stretch your imagination and share your conversation.

In relocating about six hundred miles to the North, a part of us will remain where the dogwood blooms so beautifully out by the front sidewalk. And we will take the memories of our many friends with us to remember alongside the sparkling waters where the Loon calls.

Eighteen in Webster Groves - a very good part of our lives.

Gordon Prickett
formerly on West Cedar Avenue"

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