Detroit was once the fourth largest city in the country. At one point, having a population of over 1.8 million. Now it’s about a third that size. Unfortunately, that’s the image most people have of this city. Burnt out abandoned houses and piles of garbage everywhere. It wasn’t always this way. Detroit was a great city to grow up in. We lived on the far east side, and we knew we had it good.
My Aunt Aurilee and Uncle Ernie also had a beautiful home on the east side, just south of Eight Mile Road. We visited their immaculately landscaped house often. The backyard was gorgeous. It had a birdbath, as well as several birdhouses Uncle Ernie had created for his feathered friends. There was a full woodshop and potbelly stove in the garage, as well as a bunny-proof garden, that produced all sorts of delicious vegetables in the summertime. The centerpiece of the backyard was an apple tree that was perfect for climbing. We spent hours in that tree.
After the 1967 riots, Detroit fell into serious decline and has been struggling to get back to its glory days ever since. Streets that were once bursting with kids have turned into ghost towns where only a house or two remain standing. It’s tragic. I will never forget the day that situation hit me right between the eyes.
I was working for Uber at the time, and I was driving home a young mom, who had just dropped off her kids at school. As we headed down Redmond, I kept an eye out for Rossini, my Aunt and Uncle’s street. I was curious to see if the years had been kind to their home. I had hoped it would look as good as our house on Rossiter, still in great shape and standing strong. However, as we crossed Rossini, I turned to look, and the house was completely gone. Like it never existed. It was as if the property had been abducted by aliens, apple tree and all.
That really hit me hard, and I got a little choked up. It’s not often that part of your childhood is erased so completely. However, I take solace in the fact that the house on Rossiter is still intact. Unfortunately, it’s one of the few that still is. I tell my wife that she has no idea how lucky she is to be able to visit her Mom, who still lives in the same Warren house she grew up in. More importantly, that her neighborhood hasn’t turned into a war zone.
So, hold on tight to your childhood memories. You’ll never know how easy it is for them to slip away.
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