After 44 years living here and our children off their own, Montgomery Village turned into background noise in my retirement life—buildings and roads I drove past on my way to meetings, classes, dinner out. Other than my immediate neighbors, I had little connection with other people in the Village.
Then in March, COVID-19 struck. There was no place to go. No one to see except my husband and flickering faces on Zoom and Facetime. Reading, writing and Netflix filled my inner life. But where were the human contacts who make life unpredictable, spontaneous? Where were the new places to offer surprising discoveries?
With the gym closed, I started walking. At first a loop around Stedwick Road and Watkins Mill Road, past Stedwick Elementary and the middle school. Birds reclaimed the landscape—honking, trilling. The empty playground, its sliding board still, waited in vain for children. It was 46 degrees, nippy enough to need a winter jacket beneath the gray sky. I followed the patchwork sidewalks, stepping first on old taupe panels, gravel protruding, and then on white dappled concrete. Suddenly behind me, I heard chatter, the pounding of shoes, deep breathing. Thrilled by the sounds of human life, I yielded the sidewalk to a grandmother and a young girl jogging by. “Stay safe,” I called out. They turned and smiled. “You, too,” they said.
So began my reconnection with the Village. My walks expanded to the tree- covered paths through Stedwick to the bridge that marked the end of the Village. Then off in the other direction, up Watkins Mill Road, steeper by foot than by car, discovering a creek that passed under the road and meandered through the old golf course. Next south across Montgomery Village Avenue to the lake, sharing the morning mist with ducks feasting on the lawn and others gliding on the water. Finally, north on Montgomery Village Avenue, surveying the reconstruction of the shopping center and the old golf course reclaimed by nature.
On my walks I met the intense jogger who passed me three times on my single Stedwick loop, the lady in plastic gloves who picked up garbage others tossed aside, the mothers pushing children in strollers to food pickup at the middle school, two smiling young women with hijabs, the teenage boy with a cane walking with determination, the family of four biking together.
That first brisk March morning morphed into the pleasant days of May and later the humidity of July. Mothers and children rediscovered the empty playgrounds, and couples tentatively turned to the tennis courts, then abandoned them for lap swimming. The deserted roads filled with more cars, the drivers still respectful of us walkers. Tiny red buds on the trees changed to blossoms, then to lush green leaves as chirping birds gave way to ecstatic pops of backyard fireworks.
This is Montgomery Village in the time of Covid. My neighborhood. The beautiful, diverse community that I have rediscovered.