A friend shared a photo yesterday of the home in which she grew up. Her brother took the photo just a day or two before and sent it to her.
The beautiful Victorian, with a turret and balcony and porches, looked like a house that surely hosted its share of parties and holiday dinners, the kind of house in which a little girl could dream about magic and love.
The stories she told about that house stuck with me throughout the day.
“It was a wonderful place to grow up,” she said.
While the neighborhood and house had gone through some transitions, the photo her brother sent made her happy. The house looked well-cared for, happy.
The rest of the day, in between snowstorm watch and snow day calculator frenzy, I thought about my old neighborhood and felt sad.
Last year, I took my husband and kid for a ride to my old neighborhood, to show them the house in which I dreamed of becoming a writer. It had been years since I was in the old neighborhood, and what back then felt like the greatest place on earth now felt entirely too sketchy for comfort. And for good reason: News of shootings and carjackings and home invasions and murders come out of my old stomping grounds regularly.
Earlier this week, on Facebook, someone shared a frightening graphic from The Detroit News, which showed the number of gunfire incidents near where I grew up. My jaw dropped — it was a lot of gunfire.
According to the graphic, from October 2014 through December 2015, there were about 185 gunfire incidents a month.
That’s about 43 a week. Or 6 a day.
No matter how you do the math, it all adds up to a lot of bullets flying around that area, which is next to Eastland Mall, a couple-minute walk from my childhood home. I confess to buying a lot of records at Kresge’s, and wonderful things to read at the bookstore. My first job was scooping at the Alinosi Ice Cream parlor on Kelly Road, across from Eastland. When I got older, I’d catch the bus at Eastland to get to my job at Grinnell’s music store in downtown Detroit.
Eastland was surrounded by 1,000-square-foot brick ranches built in the early 1950s, set in neat rows, purchased by young people spreading out from Detroit. There were about two dozen homes on my section of Lister Avenue between Beaconsfield and Kelly roads, and in those homes were about 60 kids growing up — free-range kids at that — who spent summers wandering during the day and scooting home when the street lights came on at night.
These days, it’s hard to think of anyone happily wandering anywhere in that area with all that lead flying about. I can only imagine what life is like for the kids growing up in those homes these days, kids living with the reality of so many guns and who likely dream of little more than being safe.