Saint Linda

Just about every morning for the eight-plus years we’ve lived in our house, the day arrives with the light of sunrise spilling over the head of our bed. And just about every morning, whether scrambling to get the children to school or in my nightgown working, , I’ve marked the time between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m. when a big green pickup truck passed in front of my house, morning sun flashing from the windshield.

“There’s Linda,” my husband would say. “Gone to get cigarettes!”

And yes, that was indeed where she had gone. Before you knew it, she’d be walking down the street with one of the said cigarettes hanging from the corner of her mouth, wearing her ubiquitous Washington Redskins T-shirt and jeans, a plastic liter bottle of Coca-Cola in hand, ready to do good for the world.

Linda, as you’ve doubtlessly now figured out, was our neighbor. She lived in another of the ubiquitous brick 1940s Colonials that line our street, though hers technically belonged to Mary, her longtime partner. The family was Irish-Catholic and large—the kind that filled the neighborhood when Prince George’s County was still mainly white—but siblings had scattered to the winds, the way families now do, and by the time we moved in, it was just Linda and Mary. [Read more…]

Little Houses

For Peter and Jackie Cooley, who live in one.

“So what do you know about East Pines?” I directed the question about a nearby neighborhood to an acquaintance whom I know solely as a friend on Facebook, a local historian who has written widely on the postwar country music scene in Prince George’s County and the “haunted boy of Cottage City,” who was the inspiration for The Exorcist.

“Not much,” he typed back. “You could check the Prince George’s archives.”

It was a response that was both a surprise and not. A surprise that even an expert on these old inside-the-Beltway neighborhoods knew nothing about this particular one, and at the same time, a confirmation of the neighborhood’s generally unassuming quality—it is a place that appears as though it is used to being forgotten.

East Pines has not, however, been forgotten by me, and my thinking about the place has recently begun to border on mild obsession, the subject of lunchtime Google searches trying to track real estate values and whether or not there’s still an active homeowner’s association. Sometimes after dropping the children off at school, I will make an unexpected turn onto East Pine Drive, and for a few quite moments, wander its eerily quiet, meandering lanes. [Read more…]

Baseball and the Law of God

Last Friday night, a freak microburst descended on our neighborhood with eighty mile an hour winds scattering tree limbs like matchsticks and knocking out the power on a steamy summer evening. My husband decamped to sleep at the office (he had to work on Saturday), and I spent an exhausted night on the living room sofa huddled next to my two sweaty children.

Twenty-four hours later, power still off, we checked into a Fairfield Inn two miles from our house, cranked on the air conditioner, ordered a large pizza, and sat in our slick cool hotel beds watching the Washington Nationals play the Baltimore Orioles.

For it has been the season of baseball in our house. Way back in March, my eight-year-old son signed up for a machine pitch team coached by a friend’s father, among others. [Read more…]