Farwell, Normal Park

If you had asked me last May if Annette and I were moving this year, I would have probably shrugged and said “I don’t think so, but we’ll move eventually.” I certainly didn’t think “eventually” would be now. And I also didn’t think we’d be moving out of a house built in the 1950s in a long established, funky, and all around lovely neighborhood to a newly built house in a brand new suburban subdivision blank slate of not quite yet a neighborhood.  I’m as surprised as anyone about this.

We have lived in this house in Normal Park for 25 years. When we bought it in 1999, it was a two bedroom/one bathroom house built in 1953 with a full attic which had never been finished. We thought we’d stay here until it was time for Will to go to grade school, in part because we fantasized about the perfect place in Ann Arbor, maybe in Burns Park or within walking distance of downtown. Well, we couldn’t afford anything like that, and after living here for five years, we liked the neighborhood. So we remodeled things. We redid the attic, adding a main bedroom, a full bathroom, and a loft space I use as an office area. We eventually also remodeled the kitchen and the bathrooms, along with fixing up a ton of other things. But we still thought about moving a few times, once when Will made the transition to middle school, and again six or seven years ago when Will was almost done with college. We even went to look at a house that was in Ann Arbor (albeit not close to downtown) and it was more or less in our budget. But as we talked about it, both of us felt like it just wasn’t worth the hassle of moving out of a house that we still loved. Plus we had paid off the mortgage, so why give that up?

 

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In other words, we have been thinking about moving since we moved here, actually, but things got real this summer for basically two reasons. First, it’s a hot “seller’s market” around here, and that is especially true for this neighborhood. But second and more important, we’re getting kind of old– I turned 58 this past March and Annette will turn 60 this coming November. Our parents came to visit us at different times last summer, and while they’re all fairly mobile for folks in their late 70s and early 80s, they had some challenges navigating just the stairs in and out of the house– never mind about trying to go to the second floor or the basement. That’s no a problem for us now, but it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see a future when it will be, and that’s especially true when doing things like hauling laundry up two flights from the basement. Besides, if we don’t take the plunge to do this now, our next move will be to “the home.”

So we started looking and thinking about moving more seriously, and, long story a bit shorter, we landed on new construction in a subdivision of similar homes sort of in suburban no man’s land. It is still an Ypsilanti address but in Pittsfield Township near where Michigan Avenue and US 23 meet. The only usual places we go around town that will be further away from where we are right now is EMU, which means we won’t be able to walk to work anymore. This sub is a far cry from those fantasies of living in a more tony Ann Arbor neighborhood, but that’s just not realistic or as important as it once was for us. Besides the fact that we simply cannot afford to live in anything bigger than a two bedroom condo within walking distances of downtown, we’d still have to drive around a lot no matter where we lived. And after living here for 25 years, now we want to live more in-between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti because there’s a lot of cool stuff in Ypsi too.

 

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The new house is gonna be great. It lacks a lot of the charm and character of this house, sure, but one of the nice things about a new house is everything is, well, new. There’s a connected two car garage, a big “open concept” kitchen/dining area/living room, the laundry and the main bedroom are on the ground floor, we’ll each of a home office space, and really nice deck off the back door. I’m really looking forward to it.

But I am going to miss this neighborhood.

I never got involved in any of the neighborhood association things and I recognize my neighbors but I don’t know them. We don’t really “hang out” with any of our neighbors. But there’s a nice mix of people here, older folks (like us now!) who have been here for decades and people with little kids just starting out, far from all white people, lots of teachers, nurses, librarians, and EMU and UM professors and staff.

We live– or soon once lived– on Wallace Boulevard, which is one of the main streets through the neighborhood. Our new house is on a cul de sac that backs up to some woods, and that will be nice but in a very different way. Here there’s a steady stream of people of all sorts entertaining me as I look out the kitchen window while doing dishes or whatever– lots of people just walking or pushing strollers or riding bikes, but there’s always something new. Just the other day, I saw a group of four or five people each carrying a part of what looked like a full dining room set. A while back, I saw a grown man driving a fully motorized and adult-sized “Big Wheel” style bike/trike down the street, I presume some kind of DIY project.

I’ll miss what Halloween is like around here. People take Halloween decorating serious around here, and we got hundreds of trick or treaters every year, more than that when the weather was nice. I typically bought three or four giant bags of candy from Costco, and we went through all of it most years. It was a walking party for a lot of folks, young parents drinking beers while watching their kids, and the neighborhood also welcomes lots and lots of kids and parents from all over town, especially folks from apartments or neighborhoods where there aren’t a lot of other trick or treating opportunities.

And then there’s the big neighborhood yard sale, which this year is going to be June 1. It’s dozens and dozens of yard sales, some big and some small, some of them happen every year. It’s another good chance to get out and walk around the neighborhood, find some bargains, sell some old things, etc. By the way, one of the reasons why we’re staying here until the second weekend in June is so we can participate in this year’s sale– we’ve got a lot of stuff to sell!

We’re not going to have any of that in this new subdivision, at least not for a while. Then again, who knows what will happen in the time we’re there and beyond. The other day on the Normal Park Facebook Group, someone posted this image of when this neighborhood was a blank slate, farmland being turned into a subdivision:

I think this house is about where it says 22 on this map. And tickets to the World’s Fair, too!

So farewell, though not really goodbye. I’ll still come by once in a while to see how things are going.

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