When we first found a home we loved in Bent Tree, we weren’t sure we would fit in. The houses were bigger than in Grapevine, where we used to live. They had tall privacy fences around their pools. Garage doors were shut tight. But then I visited about 5 p.m. one day, and I saw the neighborhood come alive.
People were out and about everywhere I looked. Parents guided young children on wobbly bicycle rides, young up-and-comers ran off the stress of a day’s work, dog lovers led stately golden retrievers seeking a dignified sniff. Soon my family joined them.
I started out walking the neighborhood while pushing a stroller. I learned the names of numerous cats and dogs along the way, occasionally chatting with their people too. I discovered many of the plants that now grace my own yard — taking note of those that thrived through adverse weather and required minimal attention. I’ve studied the gardens that have earned “Yard of the Month” honors from our homeowners’ association, to see if there is anything I might duplicate.
As my children got older, we wandered farther afield during our perambulations, discovering a creek and native prairie behind the historic Frankford Church. My kids played in the shallow water near a natural spring that once drew wagon trains journeying west. I still love exploring the old cemetery there, where some of the gravestones are nearly worn away, others bear the names of the area’s founding families, and one honors a fondly-remembered fellow PTA member.
Eventually, with a golden retriever of my own, I power-walked every inch of the neighborhood, discovering a small lake at one end and a field perfect for a game of fetch. I got to know my fellow wanderers: the elderly Chinese man who turned out to have a drawing in the Smithsonian, the former Dallas Cowboys player whose kids had stellar high-school sports careers, the young woman with MS who is out with her cocker spaniel every day she is able, and a friend who trains faithfully for a couple of marathons a year even though he’s 70.
Many others are familiar only by sight. There’s the retired man who waves at every car that goes by, the groups of female friends who start every day together and talk as fast as they walk, and the once-regular jogger who unexpectedly one day appeared using a walker and had to bend slowly to pick up his morning newspaper.
Of course, a few times each year the entire neighborhood takes to the streets. This is a place that likes over-the-top Halloween decorations, and hoards of children come to admire exotic spider webs and spooky skeletons dangling from the trees. Each Fourth of July, kids trail streamers from their bikes, grown-ups have been known to put patriotic costumes on their dogs, and we all parade to the churchyard for games and popsicles. At Christmastime, church choir members offer to carol outside any home.
We walkers notice what’s going on about us. After a major storm some years ago, half the neighborhood got new roofs courtesy of our insurance companies. Lately there’s been a flurry of people replacing their old windows with newer, more energy-efficient models. I’ve seen a few solar power units glinting in the sun. These days “For Sale” signs are almost immediately replaced with “Under Contract” signs. And sometimes the contract sign appears directly after the coming-on-the-market-soon notice, which is good news for property values.
The magnolias have been extraordinarily beautiful this year, and thanks to the rain, even my yard is looking lush. I know spring is coming when the Bradford pears emerge white and fluffy from a late winter ice storm. And, as more of us Yankees move in, we’ve been planting trees with showy fall colors.
Now my young poodle tugs the leash, hoping just once to get to a squirrel before the squirrel escapes up the nearest tree. My friends and I walk and share news about our now-adult children. And it’s beautiful in my neighborhood still.
Carolyn Raiser is a former journalist who has lived in Bent Tree North since 1992.