Same same but different
Since I moved out of my parents house to go to college 14 years ago, I’ve moved between 13 and 18 times (depending on whether you count places I lived for a month or so.) I’ve lived in 11 cities in 4 countries. Needless to say, this doesn’t allow for much rooting. I lived in Morrow and Fairburn for the longest stretches, and neither of those places or where I was in life (college student and flight attendant) were conducive to making a community around you. Vietnam was the first place I actively tried to get to know the people living and doing business in my area. In some ways, it was all I had to do, but besides that, it was much more exotic and interesting. Even then, between traveling and the language barrier, I can’t say I got to know them.
As I wrote about last time, we’ve just recently settled into the suburbs. In many ways, I fought it. It’s not cool. It’s far from everything. Blah blah blah. But I’m realizing that there are some perks to settling down. Perks to accepting and embracing where we are in life right now. It is the first time in my adult life when we can talk about things a few years down the road and (God willing) know where they will take place. We can invest our energy and money into this house and garden and be around to enjoy it. We can get to know our neighbors without feeling like what’s the point, we’ll be leaving anyway. I don’t think I’ve fully realized this yet, but it’s starting to sink in.
Last week, I drove by the local hardware store. I noticed there was a pickup truck parked out front with an umbrella. We all know this means they are selling produce. I didn’t get to stop that day, but stopped the next day and met the man with the truck. His name is Claude and he is 82 years old. He was selling tomatoes, cantaloupe, a few different types of pickles his wife had made, and boiled peanuts. He parks there every Friday and Saturday and has for the last 15 years. He told me how he had worked at a dealership down the street for 40 years, but didn’t get a pension, and mentioned working at the hardware store part time. I didn’t understand half of what he said, but it did sink in that I should pay attention, because hopefully, I’ll be seeing this man on a weekly basis for a long time.
As we left, I realized that though I am living in suburban USA, some things aren’t so different from Vietnam. I can still meet interesting people right around the corner. I should still get to know the people who sell fresh produce. I might be able to recognize what he is selling and there isn’t quite the language barrier, but there will still be cultural differences and crazy accents to be reckoned with.
I’m also pleased to discover that our little ‘burb, and even our neighborhood has a lot more variety than I expected. There doesn’t seem to be a dominant race, which I like. A couple days ago, I met an Indian lady, her twin 7-month-old daughters, and her mother while they were out walking. They live around the corner and she also stays at home.
Today, I met Miss Jean, our one-house-down neighbor who seems to be the eyes and the ears of the neighborhood. By the time our conversation was over, Alida and I had gone into her house and Alida was playing, fully clothed, in her whirlpool bathtub with some rubber ducks. Alida also gave her a kiss! I know that she lives alone and she knows that we are alone a lot. We can look out for each other, and that makes me feel better. I was also pleased to learn that when this house went on the market, the neighbors were saying (or she was telling them) how nice it would be to have a baby around here again. Hope they still think that in a year.
In other news, all the peaches have been either canned or are chopped up in the refrigerator. Since last weekend, I made 6 jars of blackberry-blueberry jam, 10 jars of spiced peach butter, and 6 jars of peach-plum jam with a hint of ginger (I didn’t have enough ginger on hand.) In the next few days, I’m going to attempt peach-jalapeno jelly and peach muffins. I’m very thankful I only bought one case of peaches.
My in-laws were here for the last week and were a great help with the house and Alida. On Wednesday, everyone left me and it was back to the reality of aviation-induced single parenting and a really messy house. As much as I don’t want to be the person that pretends life is all sunshine and roses, I hate when people complain about having children. I need to be honest, though, that some days, I’m impatient and Alida is squealy. She’s learning she has a free will, and I’m struggling to learn how to parent well and manage my own free/ornery/selfish will. I vacillate by the moment between frustration at her refusal to acknowledge to me/obey what I tell her, awe at what a beautiful, innocent creature I’ve been given the privilege of caring for, and guilt for getting frustrated. I believe this is normal. I don’t believe that any one of these feelings on its own is accurate – if that makes sense.
I don’t say this to complain. Parenting is a privilege, and I’m thankful God has given her to me. But I do want to be honest and transparent. We don’t have some idyllic life. It’s not always cute naked babies running around in a gardenia-scented yard. I also have to remind myself that before I had a child, before I was married, before any other people so directly affected my happiness/well being, I had bad days.
Today was better than yesterday, and I trust that tomorrow will be better than today. Hopefully, I’ll get to see Claude, and maybe I’ll try his wife’s pickles this time (in addition to a quart of boiled peanuts, of course.)