Lunching in Lakewood. Dining and drinking on Lower Greenville. Scrambling for candy at the Woodrow homecoming parade. Catching a show at the Granada. Playing tennis at Samuell-Grand. Poll greeting at Mata Montessori. Running into friends at Matt’s. Admiring the scenery at White Rock Lake — which includes a passerby with a snake wrapped around his shoulders, a couple doling out free lemonade and salvation, and two men partaking in Medieval sword fighting.
The list of everything I love about East Dallas is endless. So much so that I’m loath to admit how long it took me to get here.
I was born in India, bred in Chicago and courted by a Texan. John moved from Dallas to Chicago in late 1999 — for me. We were young and in love and did everything the Windy City offered — Cubs games, pubs, museums, restaurants, festivals, beaches and bars. But no matter how much fun it all was, John longed for Texas.
It was the grueling, sunless, frigid days between October and April that finally did him in. After his fourth Chicago winter, he was done. I didn’t particularly enjoy the winters either. I’ve always maintained that my genetic makeup is not conducive to that sort of climate. That final winter, in the middle of a flu-induced delirium, I spontaneously decided I was done, too.
John introduced me to the M Streets back when we were long-distance dating by taking me to Café Izmir on one of our first dates. We drank margaritas on the patio at Gloria’s and drove through the cutest neighborhood I’d ever seen. Fast forward to 2003, and with a 9-month-old in tow, we traded our 1,200-square-foot townhome in Wrigleyville for a lovely, updated M Streets cottage complete with a backhouse and a yard.
Transitions are tough. I left family and friends and knew virtually no one in Dallas. We arrived in the middle of July and it was hot, like Africa hot. Our neighbors were welcoming and Southern hospitality was on full display, save for the woman three doors down who asked if I was our son’s nanny. (“Uh, no. I would be the mother.”)
Our stay was unintentionally short. The following year, John accepted an opportunity in Sydney, Australia. We returned to Dallas in April 2008 — now a family of four, perfectly timing our re-entry with the near-collapse of the U.S. economy. Many of the friends we had made during our original stay moved while we were away. I was lonely.
I didn’t know it at the time, but it was all about to get a whole lot better. We enrolled our son in kindergarten at then-named Stonewall Jackson Elementary, and it changed our lives. It was here where we found lifelong friends — the ones you go on vacation with and put down as your emergency contacts. It was here where I witnessed public school parents work hard to support their campuses. It was here where I discovered my purpose. It was East Dallas and the since renamed Mockingbird Elementary that opened my mind and unlocked my heart. We were finally settling in.
And then we moved. Again. And again. First to Seattle and then to Bangalore, India.
In early 2013, near the end of our two-year expat stint, John made me an offer: It was up to me where we landed for good. He put money down that I’d pick Chicago or Singapore. To his disbelief, I blurted out, “Dallas.”
I often reflect on what made me answer so emphatically and without hesitation. It wasn’t the Arts District or Klyde Warren Park or the Katy Trail or Cool Thursdays at the Arboretum that drew me back. It was the people with whom we shared these experiences. We created connections that I wanted to strengthen.
It took me a decade to figure out that it’s not the city in which you live; it’s the community you create. My community was created here in East Dallas. I am home.
And I’m never moving again.
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