I fell in love with East Nashville when I was a little girl. We used to visit my aunt Helen at her little house on Powers Ave. back when Krispy Kreme was on the corner of Gallatin and Greenwood, the Family Wash was still in the old laundromat, and the thrift store was beside the funeral home. Long before the hipsters moved in, changing Dino’s from a smoky hideaway beer joint to a crowded place that serves cocktails and craft beer. Before the high rise apartment buildings and tall and skinny ugly houses started popping up everywhere.
When I told my parents that I was going to live in East Nashville when I grew up they laughed.
I was lucky enough to buy a little house on a fairly quiet street before things changed too much. I had my fill of shepherd’s pie and pints and heard lots of great music at the original Family Wash.
I sat at the bar at the real Dino’s while three old farts watched football on an old TV, drinking Miller High Life, and the owner turned on the grill to heat the place up since I hadn’t worn a winter coat. Even though I only ordered beer.
I got to know – sort of – the homeless lady that walked around the neighborhood who flipped my barking dogs off, but waved and smiled at me. One winter I gave her a pair of gloves and some other stuff I had my car loaded with. I asked if she knew anybody that might need some things, and she said yes, so I got out and packed some bags for her. When she realized I was on my way to work she worried that she made me late, then she worried that I would get in an accident if I was in a hurry. “Promise me you’ll be safe, honey. You hear.”
I met Antonia and Louie, two sweet little kids a couple of streets away who would always be waiting for me when I walked the dogs.
I fostered an orphan hen until her owners were found.
I picked zinnia’s from my flower bed and left them in mason jars on a porch of a house where I knew things weren’t so easy – never worried that I’d be shot.
I met a young boy who mowed yards for a living. He would push his old beat up mower up and down the street looking for work, and even though I did my own yardwork, he would still say hi and be friendly when I’d see him. One day he passed by and I asked if he wanted my old mower for parts. When he saw how nice it was – big wheels, self propelled, wide cut – he said he couldn’t take it. I said it didn’t run and I’d already bought a new one. He said, “Wait just a minute.” Did some kind of magic, pulled the cord and it started. He smiled at me. “There you go.”
I smiled back at him. “It’s yours. I just gave it to you and like I said, I already bought another one. I don’t need two.” He teared up, asked if he could hug me, and squeezed me hard. He cried for a minute and then asked if I would let him leave his old one in my yard while he pushed his new mower home.
Two years later, the same boy knocked on my door and asked if I could give him a ride to school. He was worried, didn’t want to be late and had missed his bus. He said he didn’t have anybody else to ask.
We didn’t even know each other’s names, but he thought of me.
I was never afraid to live alone, never worried about my safety walking my dogs. Never thought twice about walking to the restaurant at the end of my street.
I know that change is inevitable, and I know it’s not always a bad thing. But every time I’d see another old house torn down to make room for two new ones, it broke my heart. I knew it was time for me to leave.
I hope East Nashville is able to hold on to the sweetest parts, while making all its changes.