One day, Bob Owens hired a contractor to remove two feet of his driveway. Then he mounted wheels on the 2-by-2-foot, 100-pound square and wrangled it into the downstairs den. There it remains, the only distinction being spray-painted shapes of mittens on its surface.
Aimi, Bob’s daughter, had decorated mitten-shaped Christmas ornaments on the driveway one year. Before the weather could fade away the bright traces of her holiday task, Aimi was gone.
In April 1996, Bob and Vickie Owens’ 21-year-old daughter died in a boating accident on Lake Travis in Austin where she was studying nutrition at the University of Texas. Aimi was a life-long resident of Lake Highlands, ’93 graduate of LHHS and drill team officer.
“There were so many former Lake Highlands High School students that returned for the service from college, our longtime Lake Highlands friend Barbara Floyd and her daughter Meredith organized a lunch for them,” Vickie recalls.
“I remember that Eastside Flowers delivered flowers almost every hour. The employees at this florist were so touched by the outreach of others that they also sent flowers.
“It was the community spirit that kept us in Lake Highlands,” Vickie says. “Once Aimi had car trouble on Audelia, and several Lake Highlands moms stopped to help because they recognized her car.”
The Owens have worked hard on their neighborhood home to make it more livable and more attractive.
“We originally moved to Lake Highlands because of the schools,” Vickie says. “We soon needed more room. This house was so ugly when we first bought it that Aimi wouldn’t tell her friends the address. It was that typical 1970s Spanish architecture.
“But we remodeled and added some windows, shutters, and now you could never tell what it looked like originally. Our neighbor, Peggy Hill, who is a local real estate agent, often points out our home to clients as an example of what one can do to transform a house.”
An upstairs room, a den, was added more recently and showcases a 6-by-8-foot quilt made from some of Aimi’s belongings – a flannel gown, college insignia T-shirts, a favorite dress. Austin neighbor Allison Cook and her mother, Louisa, collected the items while helping clean out Aimi’s apartment. Louisa knew a quilter in Gilmer, Texas, who made the special gift possible.
“This is really why we built this upstairs room.” Vickie says. “We needed somewhere to display the quilt, and this was perfect.
“Aimi was the princess and was very important in our life, and still is.”
The upstairs den holds other family memories. On the coke machine is a picture of Vickie’s dad in a Coca Cola advertisement. Their son Kyle’s artwork also is displayed along with many family pictures. Shelves hold memories of Bob and Vickie’s youth as well as Aimi’s drill team accomplishments.
When the Owens built this addition, they added another bedroom and bath as well as a kitchen area upstairs.
“We have been blessed to have this area. It has allowed us to host several missionaries who have come to visit America,” Vickie says. “This is a place where they could have privacy while in our country.”
The garden also holds memories, since most of the garden mums and azaleas are from friends who expressed their sorrow when Aimi died.
Today, the house is once again full of exuberant teenagers. Aimi’s 13-year-old brother now brings his friends from Liberty Christian School to “hang out” at the pool the Owens added as a teen social magnet when Aimi was about Kyle’s age.
And when summer passes and Christmas rolls around once again, Vickie and Bob send mitten-shaped ornaments to their friends.