In some towns, teenagers count the days until they can leave everything that’s familiar about their hometown. They long to see the world and start a life somewhere, anywhere, else.
But in Lake Highlands, it seems there’s an unusually large number of residents who, after spending their childhood here, either returned as adults or never had the desire to leave.
Here are the stories of three such people, each of whom has her own reason for still calling Lake Highlands home.
Even the excitement of college didn’t lure her away for long. After living on campus at SMU for just one semester, she moved back home to live with her parents.
Twenty years later, life naturally has changed for May. She is now a wife and mother, married to husband Russell for 18 years and mom to children Sarah and John.
Still, many things remain remarkably the same. She has not only lived in Lake Highlands ever since, she lives in the very same house she returned to after that brief semester at college.
When she married, the couple bought their first home together here. Then in 1991, her parents made her and her siblings a proposition: They’d sell the family home at fair market value if any of them wanted it, because they were building a new home in another part of Lake Highlands.
May happily accepted the offer, eager to return to the house she grew up in. Once again she lives just a few blocks from White Rock Elementary, where she went as a child, and where Sarah now attends and where John will begin next fall.
And though she says the house has been renovated twice over the years, it remains her childhood home. “It’s still feels the same,” she says. “You come in, and it’s real comforting.”
Why such commitment to her neighborhood? Why not seek out new experiences and opportunities? Her reason is simple.
“It’s just a nice community,” she says. “It’s very friendly, with lots of parents and neighbors involved with the schools, and it’s usually a safe environment. My sister is still here, and my mom’s here. I’ve just never had any desire to move.”
May acknowledges the neighborhood isn’t exactly as it was when she was a child.
“The world has changed,” she says. “There’s a heightened sense of security now, but that’s not just Lake Highlands.
“The closeness of community is still there, at least as strong as it was before. I meet parents from all over Lake Highlands through involvement with the schools, sports and church. It’s really like we’re raising the children together. Everyone pitches in for school events, carpooling, everything. And that’s all over Lake Highlands.”
Even the neighborhood’s changing demographics don’t upset May.
“One thing I’ve seen in the community in recent years is the influx of younger families buying homes,” she says. “And I think that’s a good thing. It’s refreshing to see families come in and update the houses. And we still have people who’ve lived in the neighborhoods their whole lives, so it’s a good mix.”
Midge Hoerl wasn’t born in Lake Highlands, but as the saying goes, she got here as quickly as she could. She then made a few moves between
Hoerl’s family moved to Old Lake Highlands just before she began first grade at Hexter Elementary. After graduating from
Three years later, Hoerl moved back to the area. She lived here until she married husband Tom 15 years ago, and the couple moved to
“We were pulled away by jobs,” she says, “but we always knew we wanted to come back.”
Three years ago, they got the chance. Tom made a career change, which allowed the couple to live anywhere they wanted.
When they returned, Hoerl says they found the neighborhoods had largely retained the personalities they remembered.
“It seems to be pretty much as it was,” she says. “The neighborhoods have aged, no doubt, and yet there’s still an attraction. We drive down the street and see people have kept up the houses. And you can tell it’s rejuvenating. It’s nice to see that people are coming back to this area and not wanting to be way out. And we love all the trees. It’s not some barren wasteland that developers have cleared off.”
Another plus, Hoerl says, is the friendliness of the neighbors.
“There were places in
“Within the first year of moving here, all our neighbors came by. We know the neighbors across the street, next door, all around. We have an elderly couple with some health problems on our street, and we all help them out.”
Hoerl says some of her favorite memories of growing up in the area include
“I remember Winfrey Point so well,” she says. “It was very different then. It was a hangout when I was a teenager, when all we thought about was the next football game or passing the next test. It still reminds me of that kinder, gentler time before you realized you had things you had to worry about.”
She says she’s proud of how well the lake and park have been maintained over the years.
“I love that most of the area around the lake is still like it was,” she says. “It’s so beautiful and pristine. There aren’t many cities with that kind of ambience, and it’s so encouraging to see people taking good care of it.”
Susan Kennedy loves to talk about Lake Highlands. And when she does, it’s all about the people.
“One of my best friends lives a mile away. My maid of honor lives six blocks from me. Another friend lives in the house she grew up in, and it has never left her family. My brother lives here again; he had moved to
As she continues to list the lifelong friends and family living around her, it’s obvious why Kennedy chooses to stay in Lake Highlands.
“I just love being here where I know lots of people,” she says. “And I can meet someone who grew up here, and we have an instant connection. If we don’t know each other from school, we know a lot of the same people.”
But doesn’t living in one place and knowing so many people — and having them know all about you — ever get a bit smothering?
“Not at all,” she says. “I think because it’s still within a big city. We know a lot about each other, but there are still plenty of other things to do and be involved in. It’s a small town atmosphere within a large city.”
Kennedy has lived in Lake Highlands since she was 5, having moved away only once when she was married. Even then, she didn’t move far.
“We lived in
Kennedy says she has felt that way since her childhood.
“I loved growing up here,” she says. “Our neighborhood was full of kids. Sometimes we’d play outside until 10 or 11 at night. And even now, I’ll drive down my old street and see something that reminds me of being a kid.”
Kennedy says her children, 13-year-old Kari and 8-year-old Kyle, feel the same.
“Once I asked the kids if they ever want to live anywhere else,“ she says laughing, “and Kyle said, ‘Are you kidding?’ So if we go look at houses for sale, it’s always on our own street.”
And while she agrees that the neighborhoods are changing, she isn’t worried that Lake Highlands will lose its personality.
“I never in a million years would have thought some of the home prices would be this high,” she says. “But it’s good, because there’s less leasing and more buying going on now. I’d much rather see young people move in than lease from older people who’ll never sell. I’d rather see families. It’s exciting.”
And Kennedy makes it clear that the place she called home in the past is where she plans to call home in the future.
“Sometimes my brother will ask why I don’t want to move away and see some of the world. And I say: No, I can’t stand the thought of that.
“I’m sure I’ll live out the rest of my life here.”