A Matter of Taste.

We live adjacent to a really nice part of town.

“Adjacent”, in this context, is a synonym for “undesirable”, and that’s fine. Our quirky little neighborhood is unincorporated and we embrace that unincorporation. Without silly zoning rules to hold us back, we have such fineries as skateboarding half-pipes and 400-600 white pigeons in portable buildings in our back yards, and “natural areas” and sleds pulled by electrical cords in our front yards.

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So it’s not surprising that some of our well-to-do neighbors are not always fans of our adjacentry.

I first became aware of the extent of their suspect fandom when I saw a new neighbor walking by. I was feeling oddly extroverted, and I flagged her down to say hello and introduce myself. She made sure that the first half of her first sentence clearly informed me that she lived “one street over” and that also, our street had an ant problem. And mosquitoes. And we should do something about that.

[We did. The Mosquito Authority does good work. Our mosquitos left and are probably in her yard which is why her house is currently for sale.]

Undeterred in my neighborly spirit, I asked if she had kids. She did, in fact, and their ages were uncannily compatible with Ali and Noah.

Which led to this conversation – one I shall hold dear in my heart for the rest of time.

Me: “Oh! Your kids are the same age as mine!”

Her: ”Yes, but – they’re in different…uh…districts.”

Me: “Oh, yes. Well, we homeschool. So we bought outside of a city school district on purpose.”

Apparently my explanation sounded like one-upsmanship to her, so she quickly retorted,

Her: “Oh, yes. I’ve considered homeschooling too because we just aren’t made for this system. I’m thinking we may go the [$30,000/year] private school route instead. My kids are just too creative for this [ridiculously sought after] school system. We’re just round pegs in a square hole.”

[Explanation brackets mine.]

So we know our place. And we keep our sleds-pulled-by-extension-cords on our side of the fence and happily enjoy The Kingdom’s delightful restaurants, shopping, playgrounds, and running trails, never forgetting that those lovely amenities are not ours. We are just travelers from a foreign land…a land that just happens to have exceedingly close proximity to Oz.

Oz, that has houses such as this one:

(Okay that’s a ridiculous (but true) example. Most are slightly more normal looking manors.)

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But every now and then, it’s nice to know that they’re human too. And just because they paid three to 30 times more for their house than we did for ours, that doesn’t always mean that they have better taste.

(Although usually it very much means that.)

Such as, for one, this holiday display:

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And this mailbox, always my favorite example of Decking the Halls.

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But those examples that I had always held dear faded when, on a run before Easter, I was jolted out of my happy place by this frightening appearance, staring at me from behind a bush.

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I jumped back with a yelp, then cautiously peeked over the bushes again.

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I quickly took inventory.

There was a tulle dress with pastel rainbow ribbon sewn to the hem.
A bouquet of fake Tiger Lilies.
A satin purse surely containing a weapon of mass destruction.
Bunny ears.
And, the most frightening part, a bunny mask with hollow eyes, nose, and mouth.

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THE EYES.

I held eye contact as long as I could, then ran (much faster) back to my car. Because one never knows when a creature like that might become sentient. And rabbits are fast. Even when wearing tulle and an extra pair of ears.

I was relieved when Easter was over and I could resume my regular running route without fear of having my heart torn out by that evil creature. I ran many miles without even noticing the statue, presumably because it went back to simply being a statue.

Until Saturday.

I was running toward the sun, trying to keep the sweat from burning my eyes, when I caught a glimpse of something ethereal. From another planet – surely. I turned slowly, then stopped running to take in what was the majesty of The Statue.

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The first thing that struck me was that this was no rabbit.

This was a rooster.

Which meant that at Easter, there had been poultry pretending to be a rabbit. With four ears. Which was immediately more disturbing.

But now – now we have a cross-dressing pantsless rooster standing proudly who can’t see where he’s going and is quickly losing the flowers daintily wrapped around his hat.

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It wasn’t as frightening as his previous dalliances, so there was that.

After my run, I looked up the Rooster Residence on Zillow, the premier tool in a serial-stalker’s repertoire. The rooster owned over 5,000 square feet of house, purchased fourteen years ago for nearly a million dollars, and clearly worth even more now, despite the somewhat suspect doorkeeper.

So yes.

Us county-dwellers have our quirks.

And we know where we belong on the food chain.

But none of us are dressing up our concrete cocks and making runners think they just entered into a horror movie.

So maybe – just maybe – we’ll hold our heads a little higher next time we go out to eat.

The Tearing of the Veil.

If you ask Ali what she’s going to be when she grows up, she’ll tell you that she’s going to own a bakery (and that she’s an artist). The bakery is a big deal to her, and we have many urgent conversations as to the particulars of running the business, as she’s deeply consumed with the looming responsibilities.

They happen randomly, in a moment of silence in the car, right before bed, or during dinner.

“Mom, how do I know how much to pay my employees?”

“Well, you research the market, you see what other people are paying bakery employees, and you decide if you want to save money and pay people less but have less loyal employees, or spend more money and pay people more and have more loyal employees.”

“I think I definitely want to pay people more.”

Another day,

“Hey Mom, when are we going to Gramamma and Pop’s house?”

“I’m not sure. Why?”

“Well, I need to talk to Pop about building some of the things I’ll need for my bakery. Like the cases for the cakes and the tables and chairs.”

She’s lucky to have an accountant for a mother, as she’s started discussions about profit and loss, variable and fixed expenses, whether or not she’ll need her Fireman-Aspiring-Brother’s services (hopefully not), what we should name the restaurant (She wanted to go with “Ali’s”, but there’s a bar downtown that we pass regularly that is called “Al’s”, and with the apostrophe it looks a lot like “Alis” and she doesn’t want to copycat so she might go with “Alana’s” instead), how she can incorporate her role as an artist into her bakery, and the fact that she definitely wants to work the cash register and hire people to do the actual baking.

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Chris is all in on the bakery plans. We were running down Morris Avenue a couple of weeks ago and he pointed out a beautiful vintage two-story building for sale.

“We could go ahead and buy this for Ali, live in the upstairs, and rent out the downstairs until she’s ready to open her bakery. Morris Avenue is going to be THE place to be in Birmingham in 15 years. Mark my words.”

He’s also trying to convince me that if she keeps on this path, we should sign the kid up for some college business classes in high school (the perks of homeschooling) and then use her college fund to launch her bakery career.

That’s all good and wonderful but I think they’ve both got it wrong.

She’s a writer.

Greatly inspired by reading the series Diary of a Wimpy Kid, her own personal diary, stuffed with illustrations and great emotion, is truly a work of art. I adore getting caught up on it to see how she decided to portray the events of our lives.

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(That scribbly pile of crap is definitely an accurate portrayal of “before” in her room.)

Also, she gets really excited when our English book gives tips on story creation, such as when we learned how to make a word web, she insisted on me giving her a new notebook just so she could create word webs every day before composing her version of family happenings in her beloved diary.

Writing is a lovely and flexible thing, though, and can often be done alongside or even about one’s main career. Ask me how I know. So maybe she will own that bakery and maybe she’ll write the stories of interactions with the public, since she’ll be running the cash register. But I am confident that somehow, she’s going to be writing voluminously.

Which is why, when we got to the section in her English book about the process of writing, I told her that I used this very process every day. Then I, for the first time ever, read aloud a blog post to my daughter.

It was so strange since the post was partially about her, and she wasn’t portrayed completely innocently (it was The Runaway Incident, and I didn’t sugarcoat nor did she deny her tattle-taleing tendencies.)

She was, for the first time in a while, really excited by something I had done. She forgot that she was supposed to have an air of unimpressedness when it came to her mother’s ideas, and begged me to start reading her more stories that I’ve written about her.

I agreed – as soon as we finish reading The Last Battle, our next read-aloud “book” will be…my blog.

She was thrilled.

And now I find myself, as if I’m about to read to The Queen of England, under a lot of pressure.

I mean, I knew she would eventually read my blog – I always have. But I unreasonably assumed that it would be after she had kids of her own and therefore could read through the context of motherhood. Instead, I guess she’s going to get a crash-course in motherhood-reality from me.

Then there were other issues.

How many stories should I skip? What am I going to read to her that I don’t even remember writing? Will I have to censor myself to read myself to my daughter? Is there anything I’ve written that she’s going to get mad or embarrassed about the fact that I published it? Will she understand my sarcastic style or hear it as complaining about motherhood?

Should I start in 2008, when my writing was crappy and my stories were poorly thought-out and edited, but I had adorable toddler-Ali stories that she will love? My orderly brain really wants to start at the beginning, but this is an exercise in teaching Ali how to write well.

But the most pressing question is: will she like how I’ve portrayed her childhood?

Ali Over the Years

One positive, though, is that I’m really excited about the opportunity to read my blog aloud with the inflections and tone in which I wrote it. Because who knows what tone you guys are reading it in – maybe you think I’m a motherhood-whiner. And who knows what tone Ali would read it in if I left her to discover it on her own in her angsty tween years when she’s already convinced that I’m the enemy.

It will be an experiment. And it will be interesting to see how long it takes her to get bored with me…and therefore, herself.

One way or the other, we’re going to learn a lot about each other…and ourselves.

Because Everybody Needs a Hero.

Every city needs a hero.

Every mother in every city needs a hero.

And sometimes, it greatly helps to fantasize that the very person causing half her angst is.

That.

Hero.

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That he’s been around since the beginning, quietly watching over shoulders, fixing problems and savings lives.

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No, the very beginning.

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No! The Very Very Beginning!

Very Very Very Beginning

He hangs out in the shadows and fog,

At the Bluff

Guarding the city…

At the Castle

Patrolling the alleyways…

Courtyard Spidey

And giving power to the brave.

Flying Spidey

Sure, he has a tough side.

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A side of which not everyone might approve.

Graffiti Spidey

But he’s also got a soft heart. He’s a superhero who appreciates beauty and art.

Fashion Week Spiderman

He stands in the gates,

In the Gate

He stands on the water,

In the Lake

He stands on the wall,

On the Wall

He scales buildings,

City Spidey

He straddles buildings,

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And yes – he might even hop a train every now and then.

I am That Hero

All in the name of watching over his city and its inhabitants.

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But he doesn’t just stay in one place – no superhero does.

He travels from warmest shore…

San Diego Spiderman

To coldest shore.

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And if you look carefully enough, you might even be able to see him from the sky.

Spiderman From the Plane

Because

He.

Is.

That.

Hero.

The Top of the Rock