When my dad’s medical practice was thriving in the late 1970s, he asked my mom to search for a piece of property in a nice neighborhood. My family was outgrowing the old house in Castle Hills – there were six of us then – and we needed a place that would accommodate us.
She found an undeveloped parcel in Oak Hills that they were able to buy. My parents tell stories about how, on some weekends, they’d take lawn chairs over to the property and just sit and imagine the house they’d build, meet the neighbors, then pack up and go home.
We moved in on Christmas Eve 1981, and it’s where we’ve lived since. There was probably a window there when I could have gone out on my own. My older siblings had already moved out, then my brother got married and went into the military in order to follow his wife, a West Point graduate. Now it’s my duty to be there for my parents. My dad is in his 80s, and a bit fragile. My mom needs the occasional extra set of hands in the kitchen, running errands, or in the lawn. They both need someone who understands computers.
I remember we built the house in stages. When we first moved in, certain parts of the house didn’t have electricity, and we had no backyard to speak of. My brother and I still managed to have fun building forts out of the brick and plywood left out there, waiting to be used.
It took another year or two to add the second half of the driveway in front of the house. Then we decided to add a cabana next to the pool in the backyard. It became a popular spot for parties for the Christian Youth Organization athletics teams my brother and I were on, Texas A&M University Fish Camp counselor gatherings, my brother’s first-year medical school party, and a Texas A&M Cepheid Variable club reunion I hosted a few years back.
My Eagle Scout project was a tree planting in our neighborhood park in 1996. When we first moved to the neighborhood, Oak Hills Park looked more like a pasture. I even remember it having prairie dogs. Now, more than 20 years later, we have a beautiful neighborhood park, and it’s only going to get better as the trees continue to grow.
We pass by the park every Sunday on the way to church. We’ve attended St. Luke Catholic Church since moving to Oak Hills, and the parish has become a big part of our lives. Mom is an altar society member, Dad is a St. Luke Men’s Club member, and I’m the sacristan for the 8 a.m. Mass on Sundays. Some of our parish friends have been in our lives for almost 40 years.
There are fantastic restaurants all around us, and we’re still discovering them. Saturday afternoon or Sunday evening usually finds us down Wurzbach Road, where we like India Palace and Golden Wok. After an unfortunate trip to Pasha (yes, when dozens were sickened last year), we discovered Jerusalem Grill, which is fantastic. Of course, Chester’s Hamburgers is right there too.
My inner geek loves that comic and game shop Dragon’s Lair is just a few lights up the road. I’ve been an avid comic book reader since Dark Horse Comics started publishing Star Wars titles in the mid-1990s. I knew the place when it was still named Excalibur and have amassed quite the comic book collection and gaming arsenal thanks to Cliff, Bob, and the team there.
Oak Hills works great for someone in my line of work. I’m the communications specialist for the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Institute of Texan Cultures, and my first stop on many mornings has been to talk about an upcoming exhibit or the Texas Folklife Festival at a TV or radio station. Cox Radio and Texas Public Radio are a quick jaunt up Fredericksburg Road , and only a single stoplight separates me from KENS, WOAI, and KABB.
But Oak Hills is far from perfect, and access has a price. Fredericksburg Road is a quick way to get to the Medical Center, so hearing sirens or helicopter flyovers is a pretty regular occurrence, and there have been plenty of occasions I’ve had to grit my teeth hearing cars blasting bass down the street.
Thinking about it, the house isn’t perfect either. Its age is starting to show. I’m pretty busy, and my parents just don’t have the strength to keep up with the lawn, so it’s not always in the best of shape. Some of the rooms turned into makeshift storage after my dad closed his medical practice and my grandparents passed away in the early 2000s. It’s probably time to prep for another garage sale.
Despite it all, it’s still hard to believe that less than 100 yards from one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares is the home of a herd of deer, a family of raccoons, some skunks, and some opossums. It’s my neighborhood, and I’ll take the good with the bad. There are plenty of memories and plenty of life ahead. This is where I want to be.