By Madelyn Garner
After my divorce, I decided that I needed to get back to my roots, otherwise known as “inside Loop 410.” Something inside me yearned to settle down in an older neighborhood, preferably close to downtown. I spent many weekends driving through neighborhoods near San Antonio College, Fort Sam Houston and Brackenridge Zoo. When I happened upon Woodlawn Lake, I realized my search was over. I was determined to find a house as close to the lake as possible.
During the house hunt, I was struck by the number of great little houses that had been “renovated.” I guess the owners were hoping to increase the home’s value, but I saw these renovations as a negative. To my horror, I discovered many “renovations” involved replacing hardwood floors with tile. I remember whining to my realtor one day, “Gina, why do these people gut perfectly good houses and add all this tile and stainless steel junk?” I’m sure my response was not typical of most home buyers, but I was looking for a quaint little home with squeaky hardwood floors and ’50s style tiled bathrooms, a “grandma” house. The dream of living near Woodlawn Lake didn’t quite work out the way I hoped, but what I found was just as ideal.
Nestled between Balcones Heights and Woodlawn Lake is Monticello Heights, a shady, quiet neighborhood that winds through a slice of San Antonio south of Wonderland of The Americas Mall and north of The Deco District, between Fredericksburg and Babcock. I’ve only been here two years, but in that time, my neighbors have become a part of my extended family. If I’m in my front yard for any length of time, there’s a good chance that one of my neighbors is going to stop by for a chat.
Most of the houses were built in the late 1940s and early 1950s, have pier and beam foundations, hardwood floors (the squeaky kind!), great “old-fashioned” mail slots and functioning alleys. The thought of backing up to an alley scared me a little at first, but it wasn’t long until I began to appreciate the incredible convenience of alley trash pick-up.
Within two days of moving in, three neighbors stopped by to introduce themselves. During my six years in suburbia, I can count on both hands the number of conversations I had with my neighbors. Don’t get me wrong: I lived in a very nice neighborhood alongside some very nice people, but how well can you get to know your neighbors at the annual Pampered Chef party?
My neighbor, Ramon, is an avid deer hunter. While walking to a live Nativity performance at the end of the street last Christmas, I noticed something hanging in Ramon’s driveway. He called out to me, and as I got closer, I realized it was a deer he shot earlier that day. Pointing at the deer, he said “Hey Maddie, here’s your Christmas tamales!” What a treat.
Another neighbor, Margie, grows grapefruit, lemon and orange trees in her backyard. Last year she had a bumper crop, and I was the fortunate recipient of her incredible bounty. I returned the favor with pecan pies made with pecans from my pecan trees. The holidays are like an old-fashioned church cookie swap on my street, with a little bit of cultural diversity thrown in.
My street is also guarded by a big, burly basset hound named Fred, who trots along the roof of his house, announcing his presence and alerting everyone to the occasional stray cat. The first time I saw Fred on the roof, I was stunned. I walked to Fred’s house to properly introduce myself and as I stood on the porch talking with his owner, Fred peered at me from above. From that angle, his big ears dangled like two leather straps around his face. James, his owner, said that Fred loved getting on the roof and to his knowledge had only fallen once.
The best kept secret about this area is Woodlawn Lake. The lake is lined with tall, stately cypress trees, surrounded by a walking track and picnic benches. In the center of the lake sits a lighthouse that is decorated at Christmas with a bright, red and green wreath. The ducks and swans are as plentiful as the joggers and aren’t shy when it comes to sizing up who on the track might have a little food to throw their way. Old and young alike enjoy relaxing on the banks of the lake while navigating their motorized sailboats.
Worth the wait
Finding my roots took a little effort, but the journey along the way re-connected me to a part of the city I have come to treasure. Whether it’s an invigorating walk around the lake, or just enjoying time with my neighbors, the inexplicable tug that compelled me to relocate to this area of San Antonio has been rewarded with a sense of belonging… a sense of community. Driving home from work each day, I know I’m home once I’m inside Loop 410.
Madelyn Garner is a graduate of UTSA, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. At UTSA, she was a regulator contributor at the university’s student-led newspaper, The Paisano. She works as a financial fraud investigator at USAA. In her spare time, she enjoys blogging about San Antonio, gardening and spending time with friends. Connect with her on Twitter or her blog, S.A. Scenes.