When I first mentioned the idea of profiling my Arlington street, a colleague cautioned me against writing about my own neighborhood. It was too close to home, she warned.
North Randolph Street wasn't close to home, it was home, so I listened. But then I wrote about it anyway. "North Randolph: Portrait of a Street" appeared last Saturday, describing some of the houses and families on the street, starting with my rambler, built in the 1950s by a developer named Eugene Hooper.
The morning the story appears, I'm drinking coffee when the doorbell rings. "Hello, I'm Gene Hooper," says the heavyset man at the door. "The man who built your house. Can I come in?"
Wait till my colleague hears this. "Of course, come in."
Hooper, 74, trails me back to the kitchen.
He begins telling me about when he built Randolph Street, in his thirties. He recounts how his wife died several years ago. He explains what he's been doing for the last 40 years.
Hooper wants to see how we've changed his '50s house to accommodate our '90s lifestyle.
While we look around, my mind wanders. Hooper is telling me how, for awhile, he fell on bad times after getting involved with a local Italian-American architect.
The name of the architect startles me. It instantly takes me back to when I was a little girl. My father, an Italian immigrant from Naples, left a Washington engineering firm to work with this same architect. Things didn't work out between them, I remember, but I never knew why. My father then became a professor of engineering.
I ask Hooper if he knew my father, who died last year at age 82. I run to get a photograph.
"Yeah, I knew him," Hooper replies. "Yep, that's him," he says looking at the photo. "We both worked with that architect."
After we talk for a long while, I take Hooper to visit Rene Peyton. She figured in the story--the widowed original owner who bought one of Hooper's ramblers 42 years ago.
Hooper and Peyton talk about old times while they sip Cokes. For Hooper, the street was more than a collection of houses, and he wants to know what happened to his old customers.
So, this man who designed my house in the 1950s and knew my father in the 1970s shows up at my front door because of a story I wrote. That morning he makes contact with his own youth. He brightens a widow's day. And for me, he brings back memories of Saturdays with my dad.
I think my colleague was wrong this time. And Mr. Hooper, thank you for stopping by.