A gradual vanishing of liminal space

A gradual vanishing of liminal space

You can’t erase someone’s memories. I remember the shape of my area. I am intrinsically linked to her, the outlines cradling a thoroughfare you could hold your breath the entire way through. I can still feel the wind on my face as I rode my bike through her back alleys and main thoroughfares, a bottle of RC Cola and a Marathon bar rattling in my white plastic bike basket. The hot blacktop bubbles on the small alley behind my house would pop as I rode over them.

I’ve loved her for as long as I can remember.

The contents of one’s pockets drastically alter lucid daydreams and look different than those who aren’t sure whether they should pay the electric bill or buy bread. They hold different opportunity. That decision is incomprehensible to most, and that it exists in our own area is unfathomable, an embarrassment even, when you’ve never felt the sting of it.

The exterior of what we display seems more important most days than what we’re hiding, the innards we raze and tuck away for no one to see, every single spot scraped clean of residue.

I like the curve of a beautiful corbel and the clean lines of a mid-century building that maintains what it is without succumbing to current trends — or worse, the wrecking ball. Beautiful bones that are stacked just right make something worth taking up space. I understand the ravages of time and what they can do, but the price to lament an absence seems to be the cost of the entire property because thoughtful discourse is only for those who can act on it. Buy it or stay quiet.

My husband and I have spent millions of miles and minutes gawking, pining and dreaming over old homes in need of a Band Aid. We’ve lined the walls of our own property with bits and pieces of gathered architecture and gleaned pieces of beautiful salvage. We have never built a home from the ground up and probably never will, but we have touched every square inch of the small home we raised our children in. We know her every fault and scar.

Most often, I lament what was once considered an appreciation for architecture and historical preservation. How my lamentation is observed, without capital, is as an invitation for ridicule.

Progress is good, but only if progress is attempted through a thoughtfully wise lens.

I believe we should care if enrollment in our schools is thriving or stagnant and look at whether what we build and tear down, gearing our money-making in one direction, is helping the decline of folks who can afford to live here. Do we remain a town if we cannot hear or see the people who live here, ever inching toward the outskirts, edged out of the middle? Or are we strictly a commerce center?

I grew up in the near center of town. Six years into our marriage, we bought a house on the edges, the outskirts, that was small, slightly ramshackle and dearly loved by me. But there are those of us who only come to town in the mornings to avoid traffic and use the bank, the post office, put some gas in the car and gather some groceries — using side streets to navigate — before the crowds get thick.

Many will disagree with me because without fault capital speaks. It allows you to make decisions mostly without question. For those of us without capital, it’s buy it or stay quiet. But a town is more than what buildings stand inside her, more than who we can draw in to shop here. It’s her people. Without people there is no town, and if there is a shrinking number of livable spaces for them to reside in, let alone afford to live in, what’s left?

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