BY CAROLINE SELLE — As a journalist, I prefer highlighting the experiences of others to writing about myself. Regardless, as the new managing editor of the Hyattsville Life & Times, I owe it to you, the readers, to introduce myself.
Though this is only my third year as a Hyattsville resident, I spent much of my childhood here. My father grew up in West Hyattsville and lived in the neighborhood for three decades. My grandparents lived in their house for over 50 years.
My childhood memories are of my grandparents’ house and gardens, the West Hyattsville neighborhood full of brick rowhouses, and Route 1 before it was revitalized. Every other weekend, my parents would drive me and my two younger sisters over, where we played dress up with my grandmother’s tablecloths, ate ice cream and watched cartoons with my grandfather. There was a peach tree in the backyard, and when my grandfather added a patio, he had his grandchildren’s names carved into the concrete as it set.
Sometimes, the trip was an adventure. We drove past Potomac Iron Works the night it caught fire, and smelled the smoke and saw the sparks in the air. Moments later, sirens from the first fire trucks cut through the night. Another time, we had just left the house when our car’s engine started smoking. I’ll always remember the kind employees of the thrift store near Queens Chapel Town Center who rushed to our aide.
And, of course, there were the hardships of watching my grandparents age, of seeing them move in and out of the hospital and seeing their home slowly falling into disrepair. When my grandparents passed away within a few years of each other, the house stood vacant. Weeds crept into the flower beds, the basement flooded, and the back steps cracked and split.
It was hardest on my father, an only child, but none of us were sure about the next step. My father wasn’t ready to part with his childhood home: he still tells stories about playing ball in the streets and sledding down the hills with his neighbors.
When I graduated from St. Mary’s College of Maryland in 2012, I was at a loss. I didn’t want to move back to my parents’ house near Annapolis, but I couldn’t really afford to move into Washington, D.C. When my mother suggested we might clean up my grandparents’ house so I could live there, I jumped at the chance. I’m so glad I did. I have 24 years of history here, and I’m excited to build more.
I still grieve for my grandparents, but now I plant flowers in the garden beds and grow vegetables along the side of the house. At Franklins, I fill growlers with beer for backyard barbecues, find birthday gifts for my friends, and go out to eat with my parents. I buy pet food at the Big Bad Woof and venture to Spice 6 every time my sister comes to visit. This summer, I’ve been visiting the Hyattsville farmers’ market and filling bags with fruit.
Living in Hyattsville is a heady mix of old and new. Some of my neighbors knew of me before I was born. A new family moved in last week. I love that my neighborhood is filled with elderly homeowners who have been here for decades, recent immigrants from Central America, and young professionals like myself. There are at least three languages spoken on my block.
Working for the Hyattsville Life & Times has been the same. We’re uploading our archives to the new website, www.HyattsvilleLife.com, while we work on new pieces about zoning, eateries, art projects, and schools. Reading the old pieces reminds me of a Hyattsville I spent many years visiting but never really knew.
Well, maybe I did. You can argue that the story of a place is the story of its people, and I’ve met many who’ve left permanent impressions. It’s one of the reasons I love writing for the Hyattsville Life & Times. Everyone has a story to tell.
In the past, I wrote for national outlets and focused on big stories like wage equality and climate change. Those issues are no less pertinent, and I do continue to do some freelance work on the side. Still, writing about the place I live and the people who live here means much more to me.
I’m proud to be part of my community’s news network, and I hope to do my title justice. Read on in this issue to learn more about stories that matter: the debut of “Cultural Connections,” a column about the stories of immigrants in Hyattsville, a look at how a local is sustainably raising bees, and a preview of the War of 1812 Bicentennial celebrations.
Is there more? What do you want to learn about that we haven’t covered? You can email me or call me — my contact information is in the masthead. If you’re already on our website, submit a tip.
I’ve told you what Hyattsville means to me. Now, I’d love to learn what Hyattsville means to you.
Caroline Selle joined the Hyattsville Life & Times in May.