This old tree-lined neighborhood is made for walking. With such a small back yard, our poodles lobby heavily for their daily walks. They get a bit of restless leg syndrome without one and so do their owners, whether admitted or not.
When I take them, we always walk in the park and then wind around the streets of my favorite houses and gardens. Like the senior citizens they are, some homes have aged gracefully while others need tending to, as they suffer from a few cracks and sags. The worst is the poor house missing its front teeth – its chimney has lost its top bricks. I wish its owners would invite a mason to take care of this poor old snaggletooth.
I am faithful to seek out one old house on every walk. Its gardens are still neatly outlined in vintage scalloped wire edging, but the plantings they keep are scraggly or overgrown. The grass resting in front of the gardens has some big bald spots and the bird bath beneath the tree is inhospitably dry. On the porch sit some vacant melon green vintage chairs. The closed door and drawn shades shut-in its occupant, who no longer gardens or watches sidewalk traffic. The house invites me to prayer as I pass by.
Sometimes a house tells a story, to any who attend to its changing condition. Upon first introduction, the home is in a state of decline. Then, the house goes up for sale. An estate sale may follow. Then big dumpsters appear as the home goes through reconstruction. With each passing walk, you can detect small changes to the home’s exterior that hints to dramatic changes taking place inside. Finally, a new family moves in and plants a new garden. It’s always out with the old and in with the new as landscapers make more money with complete makeovers. I wish they would hold estate sales for the old surviving plants – I bet they long for a fresh start too.
Three times a year guests descend in mass to visit this old neighborhood. Later this month, folks will line the sidewalks and curbs to cheer on running athletes as our streets turn into a race course for the city’s annual Memorial Marathon. In September, the neighborhood hosts a big party they like to call ‘Mesta Festa’. City residents are invited to drop in and enjoy a little old fashioned hospitality, as Mesta Park becomes a playground for both old and young, with food, drinks and live jazz. The final mass visitation occurs in early December, when a carefully selected collection of modest bungalows and stately two-stories dress up for the holidays and open their doors for public viewing. What is officially called the Holiday Home Tour my husband calls ‘Mesta Besta’.
Mesta Park is home to many wonderful people and dogs. But it’s the old homes, whether on tour or not, that are the best of Mesta. The rest of us are just passing by.