It’s funny, the names we assign to things.

After many walks around my neighborhood in Waterville over the years, I have given nicknames to some of the houses that stand out for me.

There’s the Frank Lloyd Wright House, the Everybody Loves Raymond House, the JonBenet Ramsey houses and the House With the Little White Lights.

The Frank Lloyd Wright House is actually a California ranch-style home that has those nice lines reminiscent of the architect’s work. The Everybody Loves Raymond House looks like the outside of the house featured on the sitcom of the same name, which aired from 1996 to 2005.

A few hundred yards to the south of that, the red brick JonBenet Ramsey houses, with high peaked roofs, stand eerily side-by-side. Their features remind me of the Boulder, Colorado, house the 6-year-old beauty queen was killed in, in 1996, and which was shown on television over and over again during the time police were trying to solve her murder.

Another somber landmark on my walk: a gully at the end of the street, inside of which a small stream flows. Every time I pass it, I think of Ayla Reynolds, the Waterville toddler who disappeared in 2011 from her Violette Avenue home about a mile away as the crow flies. The case has never been solved.

I don’t know why exactly I think of her when I see that gully, but I think it has something to do with the fact that police and game wardens scoured local rivers, streams, woods and valleys looking for her after she disappeared and, at one point, designated a special day and urged central Maine residents to traverse their properties searching for her.

I feel a sense of sadness when I walk past the gully. I don’t believe I’ll ever shake the vision of Ayla’s face plastered on posters everywhere around the city after she disappeared, her blond hair tousled and blue eyes smiling. As haunting as it is to remember her each time I walk, I remind myself that it keeps her memory alive — and what I’m feeling is nothing like the pain her relatives continue to suffer five years since she vanished into thin air.

Ayla, by the way, would turn 6 Monday.

On a brighter, happier note, there’s a beautiful white clapboard house on my route that I love to look at evenings because there are strings of little white lights draped inside the glassed-in porch summer and winter, creating a sense of warmth and welcome. There was a time when leaving such lights on after the holiday season was considered tacky, but now it’s commonplace and I’m glad about that.

There’s also the home of the professor, the teacher, the architect and the musician with lovely flower gardens in summer. I pass the former mayor’s house, the home where I once did a story about a family that fostered kittens from the animal shelter, and the ranch house our friends bought after they married. They spent a lot of time fixing it up, only to divorce a few years later, much to everyone’s surprise and dismay.

My walk is a contemplative one. It allows time for reflection, remembering, planning.

In winter, the wind whips bitterly down the hill as I head southwest and is softened once I turn east and continue up the hill on the next street. I feel my blood pumping on the ascent and know I’m putting my body to work.

It’s a comforting thing, taking my neighborhood walk. I’m neither afraid nor intimidated, whether in daylight or dark. If I sprain an ankle or could not make the trek home for any other reason, I know I could stop at any house along the way and a friendly face would likely take me in.

And more certainly, I know I could always call my husband. He has accompanied me many times on the hike and knows my routine.

All I to need say is, “Can you rescue me? I’m just south of the Frank Lloyd Wright House,” and he’ll know exactly where to find me.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter for 28 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


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