Every House Tells a Story

A dog recently came into my life. Marley, a short-haired black German Shepherd, is my son’s dog, but as my son is in the Coast Guard, my husband and I have Marley during the day while he is at work, as well as overnight when my son must remain on the base for 24 hours on-call for search and rescue missions, commonly known among the military as “the duty.”

Having had two Chesapeake Retrievers since we moved to Battery Road in 1988, walking Marley around my neighborhood is a familiar experience. An intended quick walk around the block can take closer to an hour depending on how many neighbors you bump into and how much neighborhood news needs to be passed on. That has not changed in the thirty-some years I have lived on this street, but what has changed are the residents. I have watched houses change hands two, three, some four times. I have watched as an ambulance appears once a month, then more regularly in front of an elderly neighbor’s house and then the inevitable dumpster in the driveway as the grown children appear and the remaining contents of the house are quickly discarded.

I have vivid memories of these neighbors who have either moved away or passed away. When I moved into my house at 4236 Battery Road in 1988, the McElroys lived at 4204 Battery Road. My husband was a Commander in the Navy when we moved into the neighborhood; Mr. McElroy a retired Captain. They took us and our two boys under their wing, having raised three boys themselves in Baylake Pines. For one of their boy’s birthday parties back in the fifties, when they had first moved into the neighborhood, Mr. McElroy and two of his navy buddies took the foreign coins they had collected on various deployments and rowed cross Lake Joyce to Blackbeard Island, scattering the coins all over the island. The next day, the gaggle of boys invited for the party were rowed out to the island and left there to find “Blackbeard’s treasure.” My favorite part of the story, which was told to me by Mrs. McElroy, was that when the men returned to her house, the adults settled into an afternoon drinking highballs in the backyard. I never walk past 4204 Battery Road without remembering standing with Mrs. McElroy in her front yard as she told me this delightful story embedded in a time that then seemed idyllic to me, a time when parents needed not to worry so much about the safety of their children.

There was an elegant woman, tall, slender, her long hair always held back in a refined chignon, a widow, who lived at 4200 Battery Road, next to the McElroy’s. This woman was a friend of Mrs. McElroy. Mr. McElroy graduated from the Naval Academy, and his widowed roommate from those days in Annapolis lived in Virginia Beach, but not in Baylake Pines. This man’s car was often in their driveway, and once a week I would see him cutting the lawn for the widow next door. This jolly foursome drank many a highball in the McElroy’s back yard for a long stretch of summers.

After the McElroys passed away, Dave and Meggin moved into the house, and shortly after moving in, they became the parents of twin girls, followed by a little boy. Needless to say, the folks on Battery Road saw little of Dave and Meggin for a number of years, as they were buried in the 24/7 job of parenting young children. When they could afford a larger house for their family, they moved to 4229 Battery Road, a house with its own storied story. Since then, Jim and Dawn have lived at 4204 Battery Road. Jim and his pooch, Sugar, are regulars I bump into on my walks around the neighborhood. Jim is the embodiment of a good neighbor in Baylake Pines, consistently, silently doing good deeds for any of us in need of a helping hand…like a widow who needs some looking after.

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