West Side Story

My grown son came for Christmas Eve dinner a few weeks ago. Somehow the conversation around the table turned to places we have lived, and my son and I looked at each other across the table and laughed. 

It had been a long time since I’d thought of it, but in 1985 we went from one of the nicest homes we’d ever had… to the worst. I take the blame, who in their right mind lets their teenager pick their home?


We’d been living in a grand old home with a verandah and porch-swing, in downtown Austin. My salon operated out of the two rooms in the front of the home, and we lived in the rest of the house. Living in a gorgeous old neighborhood had advantages, but rent wasn’t one of them – and it was increasing to extortionist rates with each renewal.

I searched the local paper, found two seemingly-suitable candidates, and made arrangements to see both. When my son arrived home from school, off we went. I really liked the first one, but my son liked the other. Feeling guilty about moving him out of a great place, I gave in. On the plus side: it was in a great West Austin neighborhood. He could walk to school. We had friends nearby. Deep Eddy, a favorite pool was within walking distance, as was our favorite “date night” pancake house. But, I had a bad feeling. Against my better judgement, we took it.

It had a very large, treed front lawn… which sloped steeply toward the house, resulting in ankle-deep water and mud in our carport every time it rained. It rained continually that spring! All of that rain made the tangle of vines covering our roof flower continuously, and there were bees buzzing everywhere! As the vines grew, they crept in foundation cracks, window trim, and through the eaves, in their attempt to reclaim the small cottage. We never needed curtains for privacy.

img_5126After quickly going though two bags of cat food, I brought Meatloaf’s dish inside, and until we moved out, we always had a coterie of raccoons milling outside our patio door at dinner time, scaring the poor cat half to death. We also had tree roaches (she was afraid of those, too) and a family of field mice in a bathroom cabinet (she was also afraid of mice) and we’d regularly find scorpions in the bathtub, or marching down the hall like they owned the place. Come to think of it, they did… we were all afraid of them!

In spite of all the challenges – we laughingly call it the Rat House – we have lots of good memories of our year there. I drove by the house the other day as a shortcut – but I could barely even see it now. The vines won out in the end.

XO Donna



6 thoughts on “West Side Story

  1. brendaladd78704

    Really cute/moving story. xoxox brenda Hold on to your smile… you’re gonna need it with this new evil infiltrating. Love is more powerful than fear.

    Getting my pussyhat knitted for the 1/21 march in austin.

    Brenda Ladd Photographer • Educator • Artist http://www.brendaladdphoto.com


  2. Karen

    Remember your little cottage in Patchogue I think it was. It was so cute. i remember jason in a high chair. We had tuna fish sandwichs. You didnt have enough tuna. You said ” I’ll just add more mayonnaise” They were delicious. 😏

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