July 9, 2011, Arlington, VA: Today marked my first trip back to one of my old neighborhoods since beginning this project, Neighborhood Nomad. I visited Country Club Hills in Arlington, Va., a place whose name implies it is far ritzier than it feels in my memory. This is a picture taken this afternoon of the house we rented there from 1982-1984. It was my sister’s first home and the place I lived through pre-school. My bedroom was a tiny room upstairs hidden by the tree on the far left. It had a gigantic, long and narrow closet that extended across the front of the house where we used to play. It’s strange to think my parents lived here at the age of 34, just two years older than I am now.
Maybe it was out of guilt over yesterday’s post that I chose to venture there on my shiny blue bike. Or maybe it’s that I’ll do virtually anything to avoid driving on Glebe Rd. No matter where my husband and I take a wrong turn in Arlington, we always, without fail, end up somewhere on Glebe Rd. And just because we land on Glebe Rd. doesn’t mean we have a clue where we are.
According to the map, I can avoid Glebe Rd. entirely on a bicycle. I cross the Chain Bridge and follow a densely wooded bike path up a steep hill. It spits me out at an overpass above Glebe Rd. and onto an alternate route (called Old Glebe Rd., obviously). From there I take hilly, wide and quiet back roads all the way to my old home.
It’s really not far. Scale shifts on you when you grow up and get longer legs. The trip to Country Club Hills takes no time at all; it’s maybe two miles from the DC side of the bridge. Scale also plays tricks on me once I get there. An old friend’s house that seemed so far down the street is literally 25 feet across the road. The enormous house on the hill where my brother’s friend lived is not so gargantuan after all.
Still, the broader neighborhood is more polished than I remember. Though our old place remains among the smallest on the street, I’m guessing there were not this many fancy cars in the driveways when we lived here. Like so many neighborhoods in DC and Virginia, I’m guessing most of the people who bought here in 1982 could never afford to buy here now.
It’s fascinating to watch how much these areas have changed even since I’ve known them as an adult, let alone remembered them as a child.