Twelve Years Ago Today

Twelve years is a long time.  Twelve years ago, Bill Clinton was still president, the Nasdaq had just hit 5,000, and the Phillies' starting rotation featured such names as Schilling, Wolf, Person, Chen, and Byrd.  (Mercifully, the immortal Chad Ogea had lasted just one season with the Fightin's, and 1999 was his last year with the team and for his career.)  In my neighborhood, University City District was three years old, plans were underway for a new K-8 school at 43rd and Locust Streets, and plenty of three-story rowhouses could be had for under $100,000. 

Amy and I closed on one of houses twelve years ago today.  I remember us celebrating over lunch at New Deck Tavern nearby our closing, at first feeling the relief of surviving the closing process and then feeling the dread of being responsible for a house.  Amy would move in that evening (we inherited four tenants on the first and second floor, so she holed up on the third floor), and I moved in when we returned from our honeymoon a month later. 

Twelve years, four refinancings, and two kids later, here we are feeling very much at home in our home and in our neighborhood.  We are within walking distance of many things important to us, including church, school,  one of Amy's offices, and tons of transit stops and restaurants.  We've fixed up the things that have needed fixing, made things nice that we wanted nice, and otherwise turned this 100+ year old structure into a true home base for ourselves and our kids.  We enjoy the eclectic nature of our neighborhood, and have gotten to know and love our neighbors, whose kids are our friends' kids, who keep an eye out for us, and who socialize with us in the bird sanctuary right outside our backyard. 

University City circa 2012 is certainly no urban war zone, but there are ever reminders of the good, bad, and ugly of city life.  There is less crime than there was back then, but we are more aware of it, because I get the skinny from my fellow community association board members and because I have two little ones to protect.  Many of the parents of my kids' friends are well-educated professionals who have moved into the neighborhood because of our good schools - lawyers, doctors, professors - but many of them are long-time residents who have blue-collar jobs or eke by on SSDI.  (True to our neighborhood's diversity, all racial and ethnic groups are counted among both ends of that spectrum.)  Our church, which draws a majority of its regular attendees from walking distance, is perennially under-resourced in money and in time, for though we have many well-to-do among us, we also have many who are in great financial, psychological, social, and medical need.   

Twelve years ago, as one seeking to be a faithful follower of Jesus in a big city, without much experience on what that actually meant, I could've done worse than where we bought, when we bought; and, twelve years later, I'm thankful for what we bought and when we bought.  Our neighborhood, and our house purchase, has been a catalyst for my exploration of faith and place, of thorny urban issues, of politics and race and economics and neighborhoods; and they have been my muse for this blog.  I can't think of a better place to be; I can't think of a better place for my kids to grow up.

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