Growing up, my street never changed. In the summer, zinnias bloomed. In the fall, acorns would brush against the concrete pavement as my car glided onto the driveway. Winter lights flashed as dead leaves piled on our porch, and in the spring, bees and pollen and mosquitoes from the river would dance outside my window.
I grew up in a community where people lived in the same house for years. Where neighbors would let me pick the grapefruits and oranges off their backyard trees, and tell me the garage code to let their dogs out when they were at work. My neighbors came over for Christmas, knocked on my door for butter, asked me to pick up oatmeal when they knew I was going to the store, and invite me on fishing trips or bike rides along the river. When I say I live in Arlington, people react as if they had just bit into a lemon thinking it was an orange. I hear “ghetto,” “ruined,” “integrated,” and “trash,” as if my side of town is just a landfill for everyone’s negativity. People often forget the beauty, the people, the history, and culture that is right at my fingertips.
The Fort Caroline National Memorial holds the history of the Timucua Indians, one of Florida’s first settlers. Walk through and find mounds of oyster shells that touched the hands of these ancient people. Blue Cypress Park holds soccer games, play grounds, nature trails, even a pier to see the St. Johns River where one can bike ride or just sit and watch the sun set. One of my favorites is the Jacksonville Arboretum, where every year they have an annual gathering with music and food that after helping clean the park, one can join in. People often forget the little stores like the Plant Place Nursery, where the owner allowed my mother and her autistic student to volunteer, giving her student the chance to feel as if he was a part of something and have a job.
The community of Arlington holds a necessity to Jacksonville’s history and culture, and no matter where one is from, their community does the same thing.
-Mary Feimi, Junior Editor-in-Chief