Cementing Past and Present

Letter from the Editor

W e snickered inwardly at our teacher as she stood before the just-past Labor Day classroom, the suntan on her legs ending at a white line where her ankle socks must have begun. School was in session and her white-skin “socks” were fodder for amusement.

Not that she would have cared, had she been aware of our immature judgment. Shakespeare, Chaucer, Westminster Abbey, and Greta Garbo (the nuances of her “alone” quote) mattered to her.

Thoughts of Miss Wesolowski and others came to mind when a recent sympathy call took me near my old neighborhood. Something about the sentiment of the day compelled me to drive by the high school, then familiar streets, reciting names of the occupants to myself as I drove slowly past.

The old man with the English bulldog. The “Pumpkin Lady,” as we kids called the woman who patrolled the boundaries of her corner lot, reprimanding young trespassers who dared chase after a ball. “The Barrel Lady,” who wore short-shorts and strapless tops while shaping her evergreens into odd configurations.

That Saturday-morning detour found me parking my car in the elementary-school lot. In my funeral-visitation gray suit and heels, I walked past the fifth- and sixth-grade playground, peering toward the concrete ahead. New, chalky-white sidewalk sections told me my identity might be erased from where I and a playmate used sticks to scratch our names in fresh concrete. But, almost as if the contractors hadn’t wanted to obliterate the childish printing, there they were, spared from schoolyard improvement: Susan. Becky.

On my street, at our house, the birches are gone from the lawn where I ran through the sprinkler and paused for prom pictures.

When we revisit our foundation, we instinctively consider what we’ve built on it. What happened after we moved across a county (or state) line, entered adulthood, earned a paycheck, and set about making a name?

Mine is still set in stone, anchoring my childhood in place, I was relieved to see. Revisiting downtown Detroit, our region’s “old neighborhood,” we see the names of earlier generations set in stone on the edifices of classic buildings. And we consider what we’ve built on our collective foundation. Have we been true to beginnings?

Take a look, as this City Guide issue suggests. The more of us who point our compass toward the past, the clearer view we may get of the present day — and the future.

In a twist on the words in Field of Dreams, if you come, they will build it. — Rebecca Powers

Clarification:

Best of Detroit winning manicurist Sheila Shammami is affiliated with Salon Edge in West Bloomfield Township. Online voters mistakenly associated her with her former salon.

Also, the phone number for Visions of Paradise landscaping is 586-226-2882. It was listed incorrectly in the July 2011 issue.

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