Oh, the places we’ve been: Bullets and the old neighborhood

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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.

How much?

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.

142157No 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.

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Marshall Frederick’s “Lion and Mouse” sculpture was a favorite of mine at Eastland Mall.

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.

About Maria Stuart 211 Articles

Journalist Maria Stuart lives in Howell. She worked at The Livingston County Press/Livingston County Daily Press & Argus as a reporter, editor and managing editor from 1990-2009. She is often spotted holding court at Uptown Coffeehouse. You can check out her website by clicking here.

2 Comments

  1. As a former Highland Parker, I feel your pain, Maria. My brother continued to live in the family home until he died there a year ago. It was a nightmare but he was well armed and fortified. Still, the quality of life there was terrible — the phone lines were bad, the streets were potholed, and there were no local stores anymore. When we were growing up, Hamilton Avenue was filled with merchants, grocery stores, dime stores, gas stations, drug stores, bakeries, and a creamery. All of it’s gone and most of the former residents have died by now. It’s very sad.

  2. hello Maria…you may remember that I grew up in that same neighborhood. I was born on Duchess across from Denby High School and moved to St Clair Shores when I was 10. Spent many hours at Eastland and many trips to Alinosi’s. It has changed and often makes me sad.

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