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Andrea's column: Looking back

Before my nephew and his wife bought a house a few weeks ago, he called his mother to ask if it was in a safe neighborhood. You can imagine my sister's surprise when she heard the address. The house is just three doors down from the one in southwest Minneapolis where our family lived in the 1950s.

My sister was 4 when we moved from there and doesn't remember much about it so another sister, 7 years older, drove her around the neighborhood and provided some history of who had lived in the houses up and down the street and around the nearby blocks.

The house passed inspection and the young couple is preparing for their move. I know they're excited but I wonder if their enthusiasm can match that of my sisters, our brother and me. It's been over 50 years since we lived on that block but once we heard the news, we've been sharing memories of a time in our lives that can only be described as idyllic.

Lake Harriet was just a block away. We weren't allowed to go there by ourselves but in the summer we often walked to the beach with Mom. Riding our bikes on the sidewalks across from the lake to the Linden Hills library was permitted, though. I took full advantage of the freedom and always rode home with a saddle bag stuffed full of new books to read.

Winter Saturdays, no matter how cold it was, my sister and I and our friends went sliding a few blocks from home. We shot down the steep hill on our sleds and trudged back up again; over and over until Mom came to get us.

Weekends were for skating, too. We walked to the park just blocks away, with a warning to be home before dark. There was a warming house next to the rink where we put on our skates and escaped to for a few minutes of warmth between figure-8s and games of Crack the Whip.

We often walked the few blocks to the stores on Penn Avenue. Sipped cherry colas while spinning in circles on the stools at the drug store's soda fountain. Spent hours browsing at the dime store where there were always new items to tempt us. Bought cookies at the bakery and stuck out our tongues at the cute older boys who worked at their father's grocery store.

Those haunts are all gone now. The stores of my youth -- the gas station, too -- have been replaced by trendy restaurants that are perfect destinations for family walks or bicycle rides.

When our grandchildren were young, my husband and I often took them to Lake Harriet. Sometimes, we stopped at the nearby bread store first so we could bring food for the ducks that live on the lake's west side. Other times, we bought ice cream cones and popcorn at the concession stand and walked to the south end of the water to visit the elf's house in the base of a tree. We left notes or pennies; anything we thought the tiny fellow might like.

My nephew and his wife have a little boy. The day after his parents made an offer on the house, my sister and her daughter took him to the elf's abode. Charlie had a note for the pixie, one asking for help that his mommy and daddy be the ones to get the house

My sister sent a photo of the little tyke holding his message. One corner of the paper is in his mouth as if he's sealing it with a kiss before placing it inside the tiny door. Ah, the blissful memories begin.