I’ve been spending a lot of time in this park lately. Usually at least once a day, weather permitting, Magic, Molly, and I go meandering through. Sometimes they’re lucky enough to scare off a flock of ducks, and yesterday we sent a gaggle of Canadian geese squawking off angrily into the sky.
The Rouge River runs through here, and in addition to ducks, sadly enough the water is often home to a fair amount of rubbish, deposited by students on their way to and from the local high school. For the past few years the county has organized “Clean Up the Rouge Days,” and the commnunity turns out en masse, doing a fair job of clearing it out.
I’ve lived in this community since 1961. Called “Redford,” it’s the place where the earliest settlers back in the 1840’s forded the Rouge (or “red”) River. My husband was born and raised here. He recalls winters when he was a child and the big grassy area (pictured in the lower right hand corner) was frozen into a skating rink, complete with a warming shed and concession stand selling hot drinks. It was “the place to be” for teenagers on Friday nights, and families on weekend afternoons.
By the time our son was growing up in the 1980’s, the skating rink was a distant memory. But flanking this lovely valley are marvelous sledding hills, and we took great advantage of those. We would bundle Brian into his snowsuit and boots, stuff our chubby cocker spaniel into her blue plaid sweater, fill a thermos with hot chocolate, and spend the better part of an afternoon flying down the hills, and then hauling ourselves wearily back up.
This community was once known as “The Gateway to the Suburbs,” since it was one of the first independent areas of development outside the Detroit city limits. It was once the place upwardly mobile post-WWII generation members started to move to raise their families.
Things are changing greatly here, as you might imagine. The population is now heavily blue collar, and the community is suffering greatly from the effects of the downturn in the automotive industry. There are “for sale” signs on dozens of houses, and yesterday, our little supermarket, owned by the same family for the past 45 years, posted hand written “going out of business” signs on the front windows.
Needless to say, this downward trend breaks my heart. My family has so much history here, and it isn’t often these days that a family lives in one place for more than two generations. In these times when people’s lives are so transient and impermanent, it’s nice to have been able to raise our son in the same home his grandfather built over 55 years ago. I love walking in this park everyday, remembering the days when I pushed Brian in his stroller, thinking about the times that my husband rode his bike over these same sidewalks, and walked these same paths to school.
A few years ago we bought another home in Florida, near our son and daughter-in-law. It’s brand new, and I’m the first to admit how exciting it is to have a shiny new house. But in some ways it will never replace this one, with the history and the memories it holds.
I don’t know how many more days in the park we’ll have. But I like to think that we’ve left some tracks there, and I hope there will be more young mothers, children, and puppy dogs to follow them.