I’m a sixth-generation Dallasite, but I never knew about Lakewood until I was approaching 30 years old. My parents met when my mom purchased my dad’s house in Preston Hollow. We lived there until I was 8, when a larger family home became available in Highland Park. After a few years at the public elementary school, I went on to graduate from Hockaday. My world existed between the narrow confines of Central Expressway and the Dallas North Tollway. I have only vague early memories of White Rock Lake and the Arboretum.
I left home at 18 with big dreams of an acting career that certainly would not have me ever living in Dallas again. But after 12 arduous years in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, I felt a calling to return home. I was tired of the anonymity of big-city living — how it made people less accountable for bad behavior. I wanted to be able to walk my dog without having helicopters flying overhead. I yearned for the nurturing feeling of community I remembered from my childhood, when people were genuinely happy to see you succeed. But my brain just couldn’t make sense of moving from airy-fairy Venice, California, to white-bread Highland Park. I wanted to root myself in a more open-minded place with some natural beauty.
Tony Nuncio, a local real estate agent I contacted online, suggested I consider East Dallas. Close to the city center with an active population and a smattering of Obama yard signs, this could be the perfect fit. He spent hours driving me around the M Streets and Lakewood. I was attracted to the trees, the consistency of well-kept homes and yards, and plenty of folks out walking their dogs with contented smiles on their faces.
I rented a darling cottage on Ellsworth and got my footing teaching Pilates from the sunroom. Soon I birthed the live storytelling series that’s come to define my role in Dallas arts and culture. And I met my husband.
He was living in Los Angeles but was home for the weekend. He’d grown up in Lakewood, right by the lake. His parents still lived on 2 acres there with dogs, cats, and chickens. Within six months, he’d moved back to Dallas to pursue our relationship. We married outside on a glorious September night, his parents’ backyard aglow with carnival lights.
Less than a week after our wedding, we closed on a house on Bob O Link Drive replete with picture windows and a skylight in the kitchen. We moved in on a rainy weekend, the house feeling huge at 2,200 square feet. Boldly, we hosted a garage sale to expunge all useless relics from our single lives.
We set about furnishing the house with pieces from Consignment Solutions, Crate & Barrel and West Elm. We had our first argument over how much to spend on our living room TV. My husband painted the walls, and I organized the closets. Our little dog loved the freedom of the doggie door, which allowed her to explore the backyard at will. It started to feel like home.
Now, almost three years later, we feel enmeshed in our community. I befriended the mother who lives kitty-corner to us. Many of my clients live within a mile. We’ve completely redone our landscaping, to the delight of the many walkers, bikers, and runners who flow past every day. We take city time-outs at White Rock Lake, marveling at the lime green parrots that squawk by occasionally and the water rushing over the spillway after a heavy rain. We’ve navigated a roof rat infestation, and fought and lost a battle with mosquitoes. We’ve gasped at a coyote in our front yard and giggled at owls cooing love songs to each other.
This fall we’re expecting a baby girl to join our family. I can’t wait to walk her down the steep hill at the end of Bob O Link, through the archway at Williamson Park, and down to White Rock Lake with our little Pomeranian in tow. I look forward to exploring the children’s area of the Arboretum and taking her picture in the pumpkins around Halloween.
There’s something magical about living in a quiet, verdant neighborhood less than 15 minutes from downtown. Now that I’m here, I can’t ever imagine leaving. Perhaps someday my husband and our family will move onto his parents’ property and finish out our lives steps from the lake. Who knows? Our daughter could get married there under the trees one starry night.
Nicole Stewart, creator of local storytelling series Oral Fixation, has been published in The Huffington Post, Modern Loss and Upworthy. She’s lived in Lakewood since 2009.