Hasta la vista, Hyde Park!

Editor’s Note: From the time of Elisabet Ney, a German immigrant, Hyde Park has been privileged to provide a home for people from around the world. Their presence in Hyde Park has added to its richness and diversity. In the following article, one of those people, Cristina Pérez Guembe, whose family lived in Hyde Park for a year, says farewell to their temporary home.

It was in the early hours of July 15, 2014, after a long trip that included a four-hour delay in New York, that we arrived at the house on Avenue H that was going to be our home for the next 12 months, exhausted but excited with the prospect of the new adventures awaiting us.

It’s been a great year, beyond our expectations and even beyond what we could have best imagined, a year that will be deeply embedded in our hearts forever and will always be cherished in the history of our little family.

I remember very well our first days and conversations with our backyard neighbor, Dorothy, the admirable lady Mayor of this Austin corner, and with Robert, Kathy, and their children, especially Lucy, with whom my girls had lots of fun back in those hot Texan summer days at Shipe Pool.

It is certainly going to be sad to close the door for the last time at the house that has been our home here on Avenue H, with those big windows open to the nature of the area, where I had the privilege to witness wildlife at its best, with the passing of the seasons, the squirrels, the blue jays, and the cardinals singing; it surprised us with a huge pecan rain one day or a full spring of white irises another. We will remember with a big smile the day we had that first paella night with Tim and Amie, an adorable couple who soon will become a family, who shared with us their Thanksgiving table. We wish you all the best!

Looking back with all perspective, it is curious to see how things developed in the weeks after our arrival and how what seemed to be at first casual encounters became later great stories to tell. As I’m writing this, I’m sitting at the very desk that once belonged to your dear neighbor, John Kerr, aka Squirrel Nutkin, who used to write in these same pages that help build your community so simply yet effectively, which has allowed me to know more about this little corner of Heaven on Earth. Being also a journalist by education, I feel honored to be able to use the place where he most probably sat and wrote for you, too, as I sit and write for you now.

Back in September, in my quest of furniture without a car, I saw an ad that led me to the Kerrs’ house on Avenue F, and a few days after, I was installing a decent number of pieces of their furniture and other accessories to make our stay comfortable. After knowing more about the history of this wonderful family of neighbors, I can honestly say that being surrounded by their things made me very happy, as I thought that it was the closest thing to being their guests at their very own home.

I wish I could have met them, as I’m sure we would have had great conversations about many topics, and surely the camino would have inevitably sprung, as the city where we currently live and my grandparents’ nearby birthplace are part of that pathway. It is now nice to think that we might receive their daughter’s visit one of these days when we get back home, as she is seriously considering following her father’s steps. Wherever you go, Ellen, buen camino!

Shortly after that, I got also to know that one can never foresee that a first casual encounter provoked by a simple styrofoam cooler can bring the joy of a beautiful and lovely friendship. Thank you, Carol and Amon, for everything! Words will never be enough to express how much I have enjoyed the time shared with you and all my gratitude for all the things you have done for us! I hope it won’t be long until we see you in Spain!

Yes, “thank you” is the key word. Thanks to all these neighbors who overwhelmingly responded to my petition of furnishings to make our house feel again more like a home, after the previous renters claimed the belongings we had borrowed from them up until January. Thank you, Sue, and thank you especially, Lin, the sweetest lady I have ever known.

We enjoyed very much being part of your community and going to all the events that make Hyde Park such a magical place: the Fire Station Festival; the Halloween night that, together with the Easter party and egg-hunt at the Kennedy-Cigarroa home, was unforgettable for my daughters; the Christmas Party; the Shipe Park day. I enjoyed very much being part of the Homes Tour and getting to know first-hand about the history of this place and its first settlers. Thank you, Kevin, Carol, and all the neighborhood association friendly faces that I always encountered at those gatherings for those opportunities of enjoying neighborhood life.

We also enjoyed the walks to Lee Elementary School and the experience of school life as we helped our children get the most of the big experience of attending school in a different country. Lee is such a gem in the heart of this city. Both my daughters have made memories and friends for life, I’m sure. School was, at moments, challenging for all, including us as parents, but it also proved to be a great opportunity to share unforgettable moments, such as the programs, events, and those science projects we did, thanks to the generous collaboration of Don and his chicken eggs. Thanks to the staff at Lee and to those families who are Hyde Park neighbors as well, who eased very much our journey through the school year.

As you read this, I’m probably overwhelmed by the number of things that moving back home after a year abroad with a family of four involves, with mixed emotions about what lies ahead, just as much, or almost, as I had when we first came, surrounded by suitcases and piles of stuff to fold and pack, trying to get everything clean and tidy at the house for move-out requirements and the next tenants.

I wonder if I ever will be able to close these suitcases. I’m pretty sure that we will have huge excess baggage fees, as the bags we are packing are full of great memories of this magical year in Hyde Park. I sincerely hope we can come back someday again, walk around the letter streets, and enjoy the beautiful gardens, the delicious cheese of Antonelli’s, the ice cream and the other culinary secrets of that concentration of yummy-ness revolving around the crossing of Duval and 43rd street.

Thank you, Hyde Park, for being such a warm, welcoming place, for all the joyful moments you have given us that will be forever part of us. Whenever somebody asks about the best place to live in Austin, I have no doubt about what will be the answer in my family.

Dear neighbors, you know very well that you have a treasure here, but it is not the nice houses that are valued at several thousands, nor the fact that it is close to UT or downtown or other useful services at hand, it is the people who live here that make the magic happen. Keep always alive that magic of Hyde Park.

Until we meet again,

Cristina, Ramon, Aitana, and Marina, the Spanish family at Avenue H and 39th street, your humble ambassadors of Hyde Park in Barañain, Navarra.