Kathy Wood and Julie Punjak met in fifth grade at
Thirty years after their first encounter, they are still friends and still have one major thing in common: They both live in the same childhood homes they did when they met.
And they’re not the only Lake Highlands residents choosing to make their past their present as they move back into their childhood houses.
Residents have different reasons for moving back. But regardless of their motivation, these Lake Highlands residents say they love living in the homes they grew up in.
“I had always wanted to move back into the old neighborhood,” says Matthew Firra, a controller for telecommunications company XO One. “I love the Lake Highlands area: great churches, great schools.”
“We’re in a great neighborhood. Lake Highlands is a phenomenal part of
“It’s fun to see them growing up with their friends and kids in the neighborhood and doing the stuff I did.”
Both Firra and Buechel moved into their original homes after their parents decided to move out. They also were childhood friends.
“It is hard to justify moving away when I know lots of people trying to move into Lake Highlands because it’s such a great place,” Buechel says.
Moving into one’s childhood home isn’t without problems, however. While some found that their spouse loved the idea, others had to do a little convincing. Punjak says her husband thought she was crazy.
Another issue was whether to make changes to the house. While some simply touched up the paint, others completely knocked out walls.
Even with paint changes and different floors, many things about their homes did not change.
“It is warm and inviting, and it feels so much like home,” Wood says.
In addition to loving their homes, a big draw is, of course, the neighborhood itself, and part of what they love is its unchanging sense of community.
“What’s really stayed the same is that the neighbors still spend time outside talking to their neighbors,” Firra says. “You always drive by people who are out front having a short chit chat before dinner, after dinner or on a Saturday afternoon. It’s still a tight-knit community.”
“We love the Lake Highlands community. I grew up there and knew about the sense of community and spirit of the area. We wanted our kids to be part of it,” she says.
And, of course, there are the old memories evoked by returning to a childhood home.
Buechel says he remembers when fields and cows were more common in Lake Highlands than cars and subdivisions.
“I remember my friends and I running through homes under construction in Moss Farm, and when Royal Highlands was pasture,” he says. “We would go into the creeks and catch crawfish.”
Punjak recalls the magic shows her brother used to perform. She says his room had two walk-in closets attached to the attic. He would go in one and out the other to impress all the neighbors.
“There were so many great things living in it as a child,” she says.
Firra says he remembers playing in his yard with Matchbox cars, tanks and having play wars in the flowerbeds.
“Inevitably, you’d lose stuff, and now my kids are digging some of the things up.
“I have a lot of great memories,” Firra says. “And I’m really enjoying the fact that that’s where I’m raising my family today.”