Here means Alabama

I love Alabama. There. I’ve said it. So has Gabriel, just yesterday, before taking a step back and admitting that he probably doesn’t know enough about Alabama to make such a declaration without reservation (our interpretation of events, plainly). I concur both with his pronouncement and his restraint.

What I love: the sun. the sound of insects at night. the tree frogs that live around our house. the heat. the egret and the heron that live on the defunct golf course right outside our front door. the river. the dam. the pines. the elderly black women sweeping off their front porches each morning. the popsicle shop. the gardens. the curious glances people give Jonah and me as we walk Lucy. the way the rain pours. our house on a hill. our neighbors! the view of the grain elevator from our front window. the sound of trains nearby.

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I’d make a list of what I don’t love, but it’s not so easily done. So much is strange and new. I feel myself adrift . . . not exactly disoriented, but nearly so. It is a curious thing to find oneself both firmly on course and unmoored.

The squirrels are super skinny. The birds have longer beaks and tail feathers. The grasshoppers are black, with red stripes. The cicadas are twice as big as I’ve ever seen. Sometimes it feels like I’m wading through the air when I walk out the door in the morning, or at night, or in the afternoon. I’ve started to drink my water with ice for crying out loud, and I find myself needing a nap each afternoon, promptly at 2. They say you can see baby alligators in the lake down the hill at night. What am I to make of it all? The Ruth in me finds herself a stranger in a strange land.

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So much of the work of change is absorbing the new reality. People ask us how we are doing, how we are adjusting, what the new life is like. The new life is very much like the old life; the same irritations and propensities plague us and urge us forward or threaten to drag us toward our not-so-better natures. We are, on the whole, more sensitive, more defensive, less able to weather irritations. There have been angry outbursts and the stomping of feet and the flowing of tears. But the freshness of things here is a balm. We are discovering where to find our favorite pickles and creamer. We are delighted by the beer selection in a college town and are trying new brews. We’re a week into swimming lessons; we’re registered for school; we’re looking for jobs. We’re adorning our spaces with our favorite things and settling in. We’re cursing each time we hit our heads on the 5 ft. ceiling in the crawl space that serves as our garage storage (possibly the biggest adjustment: moving from a four-car garage to a complete lack of a garage). We’re installing a gas oven and setting up a coffee station.

We are here.

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Quick and Dirty

We were in and out of the Christmas tree farm in less than thirty minutes, including the five seconds it took our bumbling tree guy to break the perfect point off the top of the tree as he tied it up to Ye ‘Ol Suburu. New record.

Granted, the sun was on its way down, and it was darn cold, which sped us on our way. I don’t think G felt we had sufficiently considered his opinion—or that we had given him any time at all to form an opinion—but once John put saw to trunk, he was satisfactorily convinced.

tree chopPredictably, it’s of the Charlie Brown sort. What does that make this? Charlie Brown 10.0? charlie brown treeg in lights

Gabriel is about all things Christmas. His delight in the tree (and its ornaments) is quite electric. He visits his guitar on a regular basis, and checks in with the various Santa ornaments. Once a day he opens the tree in the shape of a pear and laughs at the naked partridge therein.

This year we have been particularly considering just what to make of Christmas. We celebrated the real St. Nicholas on December 6th by attending a Vespers service the evening before, during which time J donned his altar robes and did his best not to fidget (“I had to pee the whole time mom!”). He also kept smelling his hands and wiping them on his robes (“My hands got all sweaty mom!):

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The boys put out their boots on the eve of the feast. Predictably, Gabriel awoke around 4 a.m. to look and see what the Great Nick had put in his boot. I wrestled him in my bed for a good forty-five minutes to no avail; he’d caught a glimpse. It was all “Count Dooku” this (he got a Lego keychain) and “My own microphone!” that (walkie talkies). J awoke not much later, and the rest of the morning was spent trying to keep them asleep for a reasonable amount of time.

G is in a state of confusion about the multiple manifestations of Santa Claus. J is riding the fence as to whether he exists at all. And then there’s the question of gifts, of consumerism, of waste. And of course, money. It’s so fun to get; I’m as delighted as the next person to receive something I’ve really wanted or admired. That said, I have taken at least five trips to the used kids’ shop in the past year, selling back unused, forgotten toys and outgrown clothes.  

Yet Christmas is my favorite and my best. My name day (Ruth) comes right before (Sunday of the Genealogy). The familiar refrain of “God with us” resets me; the cold weather and skeleton trees invigorate and make the contemplative girl in me wake up.

But the way to “do” Christmas remains a question we test and wrestle with every year. Especially far from family and the established traditions we grew up with.

In weather-related news, today is crystalline cold. We bundle up periodically to get outside and get our crazies out, not that that works. Someone at church remarked to me Sunday, “At least they’ll conk out at night.” Not necessarily.

j unreal cold!