|Me and My cat Wilbur in front of our Condo at |
Foxhall Condominiums Summer 2013
Mountain Brook, Alabama
I am an observer in my community of over seven years since I have settled in Mountain Brook, Alabama. For those seven years I have walked down the street Euclid Avenue, a busy side walk- lined street with old bungalows, wisteria and Jackson vine. I go busting out of our condo door with headphones in toe, passing old dogs and children. I scoot by bouncing ponytails, sorority row t-shirts and 24 year old boys running off the stress of a first job or the night before. I have every house on Euclid and many in between memorized. Although it would not be my first choice to live on such an exposed and busy street, I used to dream of what it would be like if we lived in one of those houses. My head filled with foggy imaginations of our future children running out into a front yard with bare feet, summer outfits, and copper curls the color of a faded penny to greet us as we picked up the morning paper from the lawn.
My once foggy daydream of what it would be like to live on Euclid has kind of, well, lost its luster. Our busy and grueling lives are ever changing. More fiscally realistic options and expectations that we always knew and humbly accepted are still in place. But as I walk down Euclid every week there is one house that always seems less foggy in my daydreams. It is distinctively out of place among most of the old English charm, immaculately redone bungalows, and carefully manicured lawns.
This timeworn house could have Atticus and Scout carefully placed inside it’s screened in doors in a time when men’s wilted collars did actually in fact wilt by evening and ladies did in fact take afternoon naps and smell like sweat and sweet talcum. This bungalow with settled brick and a dipping roof sits back from the crowd as retired couples slowly drive by on Wednesday nights on their way to the Birmingham Country Club. I imagine its owners are older than dirt and may have even been acquainted with Boo Radly himself. An oak tree stands tall in the front, a large willow tree on its right, with its translucent green leaves hanging in the wind.
The house is surrounded by mostly larger newer homes. Other homes like it knocked down to make bigger and better for the world to see. It is the choice of the person buying the land I suppose. We see more knocking down of these little gems so bigger kitchens can be built, and higher ceilings can be vaulted in preparation for designer drapes to hang. But when I pass this particular old house I have my own simple and offbeat illusion of what it could be if it magically fell into our possession.
Over the years work would have to be done, of course. I would first paint the front door kelly green to match the willow tree. In the fall, mums would adorn the cracked concrete stairs leading up to the screened in porch where we would rock away watching the world go buy. I would start a garden in the spring on the side of the house. I have actually pictured myself greeting my husband has he walked in from work, me wiping my onion-soiled hands on a fading tea towel that I grabbed from the small spot where it would hang right above the farmhouse sink. In time we would paint the house and sand hardwood floors to get ready for a nursery.
For the past 7 years this house cradled my perfect little vision every time I walked by it. By the time I would reach the Chevron at the end of the block I would have spruced up the screened in porch and added a master bath with a claw foot tub. Lace curtains would be hung in the guest bedroom with a bowl of lavender placed on the side table and air loom linens in the half bath. And out front would sit our orange cat Wilbur, his head held high to catch an afternoon breeze on his whiskers.
About six months ago the for sale sign went up in the yard. The price too much for us to afford, they were selling it as two lots. The owners must have died or taken ill and the children, if any, did not have use for the house, for it obviously needed work. It happens everyday in my neighborhood. One house goes down and two go up in its place at a price tag that buys you Mountain Brook. Not what I imagine this part of Mountain Brook used to be but what it has somehow become. God honest truth, I never expected that we would ever be able to buy that old house. I did hope one day that someone who had the means to afford this property would buy it and follow through with my same vision. Not likely, but there is always a chance.
I still have foggy dreams of a house, some house, in my head. When the time is right we will move maybe to an adjacent zip code, maybe in Mountain Brook, maybe in Birmingham city where folks like us are confidently migrating. Who knows what God has in store for us. I take things day by day in this fast pace world that surrounds us. But I know the best in life is yet to come for us and hopefully that includes a screened in porch. I have learned as I observe my surroundings that my zip code should never define me.
In the meantime, I will continue to walk down Euclid Avenue in the neighborhood where I live, busting out of Foxhall Manor Condominiums into the Tiny Kingdom. I must look lucky to passers by to live in such a unique setting. It took me a long time to realize that. I am lucky to live and work in a safe community, to have dreams that I can’t afford. Otherwise they would not be dreams. I am happy to have a husband that truly loves me, a life with him that has medium to large imperfections I am not afraid to wear on my sleeve. I feel fortunate to have the foresight that we will continue to make memories and start new ones.
They knocked down my old house just the other week, I assume to build two in its place. I won’t like the houses they build and will walk by in disgust, mouthing something negative under my breath that won’t make it better. In years when we drive by for old times sake I will look at my husband and say,
“Remember that old house, the one with the front porch and the good bones, the one we loved so much. The one with the willow tree and red brick chimney.” He will nod and smile and we will continue on down the street where everything changes, yet somehow I imagine it will still feel the same.