When we moved in two years ago, the house across the street was for sale. It had been on the market for a while, and even though it obviously needed updating, it had good bones and wasn’t so bad it was uninhabitable. Every week people came to look, but no one took the plunge.
One morning I noticed an under contract sign on the house, and a few weeks later, it had sold. Then, the joy began. The couple who bought the house began to fix things up. The peeling, dull yellow paint was replaced by a warm light brown. The scraggly bushes everywhere were ripped out and replaced by green grass. Two comfortable chairs with cute pillows appeared on the wrap-around porch, then more flowers and more greenery.
When I walk down the stairs and out the front door, that house is the first thing I see. Watching it being restored little-by-little, week-by-week has been a source of encouragement. So when we returned from vacation and I noticed the sign in the yard, I was so excited for my neighbors. It is one thing to pour your heart into making something what it was meant to be, it is another for the whole neighborhood to recognize it.
I wish every act of redemption came with an physical award, a greater and better prize that will not migrate to a new winner at the end of the month. But for now, I will smile at this small acknowledgement of the good and beautiful when I walk out my front door.
We moved in July, and I’ve spent most of my new-to-town energy getting the girls settled and getting to know people. I have a strong sense of place, and I need to get to know Memphis better to really settle in. I’ve been to Overton Park locations (Zoo, the Brooks) several times. We’ve ridden the Downtown Trolley loop and walked to Mud Island Park. We found a BBQ joint (the Bar-B-Q Shop) and a Mexican place (Las Delicias.) At the suggestion of a friend, I read a book about the yellow fever epidemic which prompted a visit to Elmwood Cemetery. A decent start, but I’ve got a long way to go.
So, the new year seems as good a time as any to declare the start of my “Fall in Love with Memphis” campaign. This is my tentative to-do list. Locals, please make (inexpensive) suggestions!
Get my driver’s license, aka become a legit Tennessean.
Visit the National Civil Rights Museum, Sun Studios, the Stax Museum and the Rock & Soul Museum. Get some culture at the Dixon. Think about spending the big bucks on Graceland.
Eat Breakfast at Bro. Juniper’s. Have Gus’s Famous Fried Chicken. Find some good local family and cheap date restaurant options. Find a coffee shop, aka stop pouting. Go to Muddy’s when depressed as a reminder that Memphis wins that category.
Take the kids back to Shelby Farms to the super cool playground. Take them to Lichterman Nature Center and to do the labyrinth at Audubon Park. Discover other cool places to play. See something at the Orpheum.
Find some team spirit: Grizzlies, Red Birds, Tigers… not that choosy about which one.
At least for the foreseeable future, this is our home in Memphis:
We live upstairs, in a large brick duplex on a tree-lined street filled with children. The kids on our block often have impromptu evening kickball or wiffleball games, and Kate and Lexi are pretty delighted about that. Midtown Memphis is full of neat places to explore and we’ve only scratched the surface. I am hopeful that this street will be a place we can learn and grow as neighbors and this city is one we will come to fight for and treasure. Right now we are still strangers in a strange land.
I think we’re going to have a plot in a new community garden this year. I’m pretty stoked about it. We’ve done some container gardening before, but this would be raised bed, probably square foot style and organic. We will certainly grow tomatoes, peppers, basil and cilantro, but I am not sure what varieties, and what else. I’d love to try green beans.
So, green thumbs, any suggestions for varieties or things to try? Our girls don’t really remember our gardens of the past, so I am hoping for a memorable summer of working and reaping the harvest. I am also excited about the potential for building community with friends old and new as we garden together. The location is a few miles away (boo) but in a neighborhood that’s on our list for a potential place to settle in if we are able to stay here long term.
Lest anyone think otherwise, we didn’t move to the perfect neighborhood (you know, the one with the manicured lawns and the fancy billboards) and find instant community. We moved intentionally to one of the three neighborhoods where our church has settled in. I’d say at least 80% of our church lives in 3 neighborhoods and the 3 or 4 other neighborhoods that connect them. We’re in the middle neighborhood. So, at least 80% of our church is less than 5 miles away.
I do have friends in the neighborhood who don’t go to our church. And I hope to make more! But our “instant community” was really community that has be percolating for quite some time. From the time our church was planted, those three neighborhoods have formed the nucleus. We organize community groups by neighborhood and other social functions, and elders serve each neighborhood as well. It’s an intentional community.
I can’t recommend this situation to you more highly. Whether your community is through church or a tribe of people with common interests, living together, in the same geographic area, really enriches relationships. You are more likely to bump into people. When you drive by their homes you think of them. It makes it very hard to be isolated. If your community is spread out hither and yon, pick someplace central and move in near *one* friend. One is better than none. Hope and pray that others follow.
I am so thankful we were able to sell our house and move. Having a friend next door to come help with groceries when I am getting out of the car and visit with me as I start dinner is a gift. So is being able to carpool and trade babysitting with another friend, who volunteered to watch my kids while I ran an unpleasant errand and ended up cleaning up one of the problem areas in our house, just because. When I went to the park to let the kids play through our wait for M, I ran into our friends who live just up the hill from us. We had both had our knitting and had a lovely chat while we worked (and with her husband as well.) I went to a baby shower for another friend who lives in the neighborhood at yet another friends’ house two blocks away. Hysterically, I shot a new client who was referred from the internet, who happens to live six houses away. Every single one of these things happened since Tuesday. Community is a remarkable providence, and I am thankful. These days of great mercies and difficult situations all at once can feel really schizophrenic but having the continuity of community makes them so much easier to bear.
I am really looking forward to moving to the city, but there are aspects of our small town life I will miss. Lexi got a stomach bug* Sunday night that necessitated washing her car seat cover last night. Forgetting this fact, I went to put the girls in the car to run a very important envelope to the post office for a very important family. With the sudden realization that the carseat needed to be put back together, I quickly decided that it would be faster to just walk. That’s the joy of living four blocks from the post office. It was cool outside, but not completely unpleasant, and the girls were enjoying themselves a great deal. That’s when I conceived of writing this blog post, in praise of small town life.
We approached the old post office, a squat and utilitarian structure that looks like many small post offices built in the 50s and 60s: mid-century modern, sans chic. Carefully walking up the narrow and rather steep wheelchair ramp, I tried to make it in the door. A kind woman saw me struggling and came to my aid. My new-used double jogger was one-half inch too wide. (Note to the government – wheelchair ramps should have roomy doors.) So I went down the ramp and in the front double doors and parked the stroller at the bottom of the stairs. Two kind old ladies watched over the girls in the lobby while I walked into post office proper to conduct my business. (The girls were no more than 15 feet from me, and in full view, we kept eye contact and regular waving the entire time.) It was approximately 4:30p and as is often the case, there was no one in line, and I was able to buy the necessary postage in a minute flat. Our post office displays a “5 minutes or less” sign, and I’ve never waited longer. I can’t say that for any other post office I’ve regularly patronized!
And so, only slightly thwarted by the narrow door, we bid adieu to our new small town friends and walked the few blocks home, passing three neighbors who stopped to say hello.
* Lexi is well, but Kate fell prey tonight. Please pray that she stops vomiting and Michael and I are spared.
A blur of children, a hint of the red dining room with the crazy linoleum.
I uploaded some pictures of the playroom to flickr with lots of notes.
My favorite thing about the playroom is the vertical storage of a HUGE Ikea bookcase and Rubbermaid bins.Â It helps all the toys stay organized and helps the kids play better.
Still a work in progress.
The nice description of my dining room at present, with one coat of red paint and no more until the roof leak that appeared in such a timely manner this afternoon (our first!) stops sending a small trail of water between the paint and sheetrock.
That room has been so disagreeable this whole painting process. I was quite thankful tonight that Alabama is Blue Bell country and for the first time in months, we had some in the freezer. I needed some therapy.
ETA: At least Kate likes it. She’s exclaimed multiple times, “Oh mommy! The dining room is BEAUTIFUL!”
Sanding, spackling, sanding again, cleaning, priming & painting multiple coats = a dining room that is no longer orangellow. Pictures after the painting is finished and better blogging then, too!