So we’re back. In Birmingham. It’s been two weeks, three states, two coastlines, six children under the age of three, friends, family, feasting and the absence of shoes. It’s been grand and I’m glad to be back.
(The absence of shoes really was my favorite part of our first-ever Summer Beach Road Trip as a family of four. Nobody wore shoes. We all just rinsed the sand from our feet before sitting around the dinner table together. We lived without television and cell phones and wireless. We fell asleep to the sounds of waves at the shoreline, just footsteps from our beds. We had more than a few silent moments of just being together, of just enjoying each other. And we did it all with bare feet. Glorious.)
When we finally returned from our fifteen-day trip, we had a few unexpected surprises waiting on us. For starters, the storms you guys experienced (while we were sipping piña coladas on floats) knocked out power to our house for a bit and flipped the breaker that fuels the fridge. We lost a few prized edibles, including Sweet Pea’s cherished preserves and a locally made favorite, Alecia’s Tomato Chutney. I lost my stash of (sliced and frozen) Chilton County Peaches, intended for pie-making sometime in early December.
In perspective, though, we didn’t truly lose anything. A few replaceable condiments perished during our absence. So what? Thanks to our lovely neighbors, the Berthiaumes, we didn’t even have to clean up the puddle of water that had dripped from the freezer on to our kitchen floor. Even our sweet cat Harley survived the loneliness, and our Birmingham Bungalow was exactly as we left it.
Given the emphasis on “gratefulness” and “blessings” during the anniversary of 9/11 and also a new (*winning*) season in tornado-torn Tuscaloosa, it seemed downright lucky to return to our peaceful home on our shaded street with all of our beautiful pieces of art and our sturdy dining room table and good neighbors and a grocery store close by. Truly, we are very well taken care of in our lives… although two weeks of beach-side living certainly spoiled us in a way that may have had us thinking otherwise.
So, as we pulled in and unloaded, we quickly realized we’d have to venture back out once again in our well-traveled old car to grab some supper and a few essentials to get us through the unpacking phase. Now – here’s where the fun surprises come in!
Oh, the Magic City had all kinds of changes and new things to see, and upon realizing this, we immediately vowed to leave the city for at least two weeks every year (preferably, for beach bumming) so that she (our beloved Birmingham) can undergo her annual metamorphosis for us to enjoy upon our return.
On our quest to find dinner (and to try something new), we started along 3rd Avenue South, passing Bottletree (and wishing they had childcare available so we could pull in and see the show). We hung a left in Avondale and saw tremendous changes and upgrades as we passed by Avondale Park. We spotted a new gas station (not especially exciting, I know), a new luxury car dealership downtown near the loft district (two, in fact, if you count the one we passed on Crestwood Boulevard, just past Century Plaza, on our way back in to town). There was new construction across from Pepper Place (we’ve yet to determine what it will be), and finally we settled on having dinner in Five Points South at a dive pizza joint that’s been in business for well over two decades. (Yes, we’ll be visiting again very soon. Case-and-point: Nobody flinched when Sweet Pea had a tantrum that cost us a bottle of apple juice and them a roll of paper towels. I can vouch for the place – Rocky’s Pizza is a great little casual spot for a filling meal. Carbs, meat, muffalettas, house-blend cheese, and soda, and all with a little “healthy” thrown in to make the mamas in the group happy. It don’t get no better than that, y’all. )
Aside from what we noticed on our brief ride through nearby neighborhoods, there were a few other things that we missed out on while we were away. Let me fill you in as I catch myself up:
- WELD hit newsstands (and the worldwide web).
- Birmingham Restaurant Week, Art Walk, and Sidewalk Film Festival enjoyed tremendously successful runs.
- I missed Art Walk. Again. (whimper)
- I also missed Sidewalk. Again. (whimper, sniff)
- I was nominated and named a finalist for Birmingham Mommy’s Mom’s That Rock rally, and I would so appreciate it if you’d go and cast your vote here. (I’m not campaigning for my own sake (okay, maybe a little); my fellow finalists (nine, to be exact) are amazing in so many ways. I barely deserve to be in their company, although given this is my second year being nominated, I’m considering having fake tattoos made for my boys that don a banner-breasted heart reading “Mom”.)
- It rained. A lot. Most of our basil survived. Half of my impatients did not, nor did the ferns. I haven’t stepped out back to check on the pumpkins or the other herbs, but I’m betting we’re in need of some new flora. And, by the way, have you seen this guy’s blooming new blog, A Borrowed Garden? I’ll mention it again soon, so you won’t forget to check it out. It’s almost good as Magic City Manifesto. Almost.
- Bama football kicked off. We tried every which way possible to catch the first game on the radio as we drove toward South Carolina. Lesson: If you are en route on game day, give up all notions of listening to college football. They only way you can keep up with the game is by refreshing the ESPN app on your smart phone as you putter on down the interstate… And let’s not forget that traveling through the great state of Alabama lends itself to signal black spots. Thankfully, for the second game of the season, we were granted shelter (and barbecue) at the Mehlberger home in Alpharetta, Georgia. I’ll also note that all four of us wore our Crimson Tide spirit on both victorious Saturdays. Roll Tide.
- Sweet Pea’s school started. (He missed the first two weeks. Well, maybe he didn’t miss school, but he was definitely absent.) Returning home and to (some form of) normalcy means I will be launching our very own homeschool experiment. Okay, he’s only three, but what a bright little man he’s becoming. Every day. I can’t miss any of these golden opportunities to encourage him to be a lifelong learner. More to come on this soon…
- Jefferson County still hasn’t made a decision about the annoyingly headline-hogging and taxpayer-stabbing sewer debt issue. But I’m not surprised. After being away for a few weeks, I acknowledge its lameness and abysmal, inevitable outcome. Already I’ve spent too much time discussing this. Bleh.
- The downtown baseball stadium seems to be inching a little closer to reality. People have stopped bickering and started talking. It’s a novel idea in Birmingham and, lo and behold, it seems to be working.
- Summer started to slip away. Hallelujah. We were ridiculously lucky to dodge hurricanes and tropical storms (we had a little rain here and there) and ended with eight full days of glorious sunshine and weather and two very different yet very relaxing beaches. And when we pulled in to our driveway and stepped out of our very stale four-door, we felt the coolness of autumn in the air. Again, I say hallelujah. Fall – she’s almost here.
…I’d say that’s a lot of progress and motion. Birmingham got along just fine without me.
Now, you’ll notice I didn’t do much writing during my leave of the Magic City. I read. I catnapped with my four-month old on a screened-in porch, wave sounds lulling us to sleep. I played with my friends’ children. I plunged myself in the ocean, over and over again, trying desperately to forget about all my worries and let them just all float away.
One journey's ending is another's beginning.
And so now I’m back. And things are changing. You’ll notice these changes, no doubt. There’s a lot happening here on 6th Avenue South, in Birmingham, in my mind, in my heart… Did I mention autumn is my favorite season?
I’m excited to be home.
I’m excited about all that’s in store…for me, for my family, for Birmingham.
See ya’ around.