Thursday, April 15, 2010


I've been re-reading A Country Woman's Scrapbook, a book by Virginia Beach author Louisa Venable Kyle, based on columns she wrote for the local paper in the 1950s. In it she writes movingly about "Edgewood," the small house in the "country" (now in the middle of one of the busiest sections of Virginia Beach) she called home. She paints beautiful word pictures of sitting on the porch before air conditioning, working in old rose gardens, and driving down twisting county roads.

I remember Edgewood. My parents were friends of Mrs. Kyle, having worked at the newspaper with her, and every Christmas we drove over to visit her and to see her spectacular and ever-growing Nativity display, which included every sort of china animal imaginable. Edgewood was a small and unpretentious Cape Cod dwelling on Linkhorn Bay, situated on three acres so densely wooded that even in the winter you couldn't see the house from the road. Mrs. Kyle apparently spent a lot of time gardening, judging from the book I'm reading, but all I remember from my childhood is the thick woods. I remember rambling around the property with my sister. The book I'm reading tells me it was possible to walk a half mile on the paths through the woods. I believe it... despite being in the middle of a suburb, it truly did feel as if it was in the country.

Today I went to visit my dad, who lives in Virginia Beach, and on a whim we drove past Edgewood. Mrs. Kyle died years ago, but Edgewood is still there. At least, the house is still there. It is no longer hidden in the woods. It's plainly visible from the road, its small, unprepossessing, old-fashioned form shadowed by three towering new houses. Most of its acreage has apparently been sold off, and since it's waterfront property, the houses that have been built there are quite spectacular. A sign in front of the house advertises yet another lot for sale, so any remaining woods are presumably doomed.

I suppose it's nice that the original house is still standing, but it doesn't look much like the original house any more. The trees and gardens are all gone, and Edgewood sits nakedly visible to all passersby, its charming, homey modesty mocked by the mansions rising around it. It looks very small and forlorn, stripped of its history and its beautiful woods and its gardens. It's sad and depressing, and I really wish I hadn't driven past it.

Sometimes memories are best left as memories.

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