This blog post is a LONG time coming so bear with me…
For almost 8 years I’ve lived in a 1200-1400 square foot (not exactly sure) bungalow in Forest Park / Avondale. The house was built in 1946. It has been beautifully restored and maintained..it’s adorable. BUT…we have no storage. Tiny closets. Only ONE bathroom. It was perfect for a single person or a young couple…but adding a baby to the mix just sent my anxiety into the stratosphere. It has been challenging to say the least. Not having a playroom. Not having a storage closet for old toys or clothes he’s outgrown. Having to send EVERYTHING extra over to my parents’ house to be stored in the attic. Needing counter space for all the stuff that comes with a baby…bottle warmers, bottle sanitizers, bottle drying racks… Not having a place for toys…or little kid furniture..or a bean bag… Everything has to sit out. There’s no attic or basement or big storage closet to chunk stuff in if you don’t want it sitting out. For a neat freak it’s hard. But..I’ve done it and I’ve done it with a smile because I LOVE..and I mean LOVE.. where we live. I love this house. I love this street. I love my neighbors. I love our parks. I love our community. I love the location. I love the convenience to everything. I love the lack of traffic. I love the mindset. I love it all. I simply LOVE where we live.
So we thought about adding on…we thought about building up. We thought about alot of things…ANYthing to keep us here. But there’s one thing I just couldn’t reconcile in my head and that’s the school issue. I’m just not going to do Birmingham city schools. Alot of people are and that’s fine. But I’m not. Alot of people are doing Avondale Elementary and then going private. We aren’t doing that either. We want public. We want public all the way. And we want a GOOD public school. I make no apologies for that. I want to believe in Birmingham. I love this city and all of the amazing things that have happened since I’ve been a resident here. I love the fight in this city. I love the character. And I’m so appreciative of all of the people that have worked to make it such a wonderful place to live and work and play. However..when it comes to my kid’s education…I’m just not willing to take a risk on it. If EVERYONE here was, and the city had the resources needed to make it a competitive system, I’d be all about it. But that’s a long way off. Most everyone here sends their kids to private school. Not doing that either. They are good schools but it’s not what we want for Ritter. I’ve taken alot of flack for “selling out” on this issue…and that’s fine. I’ll take it. I want a good public school.
But the other thing I wanted is old. I wanted an old historic neighborhood. I wanted trees and parks. I wanted charm and character and a convenient location. I don’t want a subdivision in the suburbs. I don’t want chain restaurants and strip malls. I want local businesses and a tight knit community feel. If I can’t have Avondale…. I wanted Homewood. But have you seen how expensive it is? And how tiny the houses are? It’s almost comical. So I searched and searched and searched. If ANYTHING affordable and nice went on the market it was under contract in a few days. I couldn’t keep up. I would try so hard but everything sold so fast. I called realtors and talked to them about what I wanted and everyone laughed at me when I told them my budget and said “you’ll never be able to get that in Homewood.”
So I cried. And I worried. And I lost sleep. I didn’t want to have to move “out” to raise my kid in a good neighborhood with a good school system. I shouldn’t have to sacrifice for that. And no offense to my suburb dwelling friends (I love you all dearly) but the mindset is a little different out there. And it ain’t so diverse. I don’t want Ritter being raised in an all white, all conservative neighborhood. And I don’t want him being the weirdo with the liberal parents and gay friends who went to the Jewish preschool and whose mommy is a “shrink.” Ha. Now…before you all crawl my ass about it…that was meant in jest. I know that not that all suburbanites think that way…but alot do. And it was funny! 😉
Anyway….I would drive home through my beautiful neighborhood and look around and say… “I just can’t move out…I will just be so miserable if we do.” So years went by. I watched the market and resigned myself to the fact that something would happen and a door would be opened somehow and we would find some way to have something affordable in a decent neighborhood without having to move 30 minutes outside of town. I said from the getgo when I got pregnant that I would find a way to get in Homewood schools. It’s one of the top school systems in the state and it’s diverse. I WOULD find a way. In the words of my favorite character…”if I have to lie, steal, cheat, or kill…” Okay not really. But I swear I was willing to do anything to make it work. I looked into utilizing that new law that allows you to move schools if you’re zoned for a failing school. Didn’t apply. I looked into using someone else’s address. Can’t be done. I looked into paying them. Won’t take it. I realized we really were going to HAVE to find a way to move to Homewood. I prayed for God to open a door.
And that door came in the form of Willow Homes. A connection I actually made through someone I know from my beloved JCC! When we first started working with them we were looking at buying something older in Homewood and renovating. BUT… they actually helped us locate a very rare vacant lot in Edgewood!!!! So ….drumroll…. we are purchasing the lot and building a new home!!! A NEW HOME! A new home that is going to look old and have the same charm as all the old craftsman style homes that we love in Avondale and Homewood.
I haven’t slept in 2 weeks. I dream about this house. I think about it non stop. I tear up thinking about how all this came about and how we are actually going to have SPACE …and… dear god…TWO EFFING TOILETS!!!! THREE ACTUALLY!!!! It all seems so unreal. Like it’s too good to be true.
The thing about all of this that gets me the most…my child will grow up in one place. In one house. In one neighborhood. In the same school system. With the same kids. ALL the way through. None of you can possibly fathom what that means to me. I went to FIFTEEN different schools between kindergarten and graduation. All I wanted was stability. All I wanted was to live in one place and have friends and know people for more than a few months. I swore I would make that happen for my child. And I am. I have prayed and prayed and prayed about this issue. I have asked God to guide our steps and help us make the right decisions. This decision was less about us and what kind of home we wanted and more about what kind of school and community we were raising our child in. I have driven to this lot every day since we found it. I have walked every inch of it and prayed over it. I have envisioned this house and my child sitting at the table doing his homework. I have envisioned him riding a bike down the street. I just can’t put into words what this opportunity feels like for me.
I am sure everyone goes through this when they find the home where they will raise their family. I just think that for me, given everything I went through growing up, given how chaotic and unstable life was for so long…this moment is especially huge.
Another thing that makes all of this so special and exciting is the ability to create something that is truly reflective of us and that has space to welcome and entertain. I have always been someone who was very particular about my living space. Growing up my room was immaculate. Even my college apartment looked like an adult lived there. It was decorated to the hilt. I’ve always been someone who very much values the aesthetics of a home…a home that is warm and welcoming…organized…cozy…comfortable. And I LOVE to cook for people and entertain and have guests. What is a nice home if you can’t welcome people to it? The sad thing about where we live now is that we don’t have the ability to have big family gatherings or really have alot of people over because it is so small. All of my dad’s family live out of state. We rarely get to see each other and when they come to visit they always have to stay in a hotel. You can’t imagine how sad that makes me. All I have wanted was a home large enough to have my family over for a holiday and everyone feel comfortable and have a bed to sleep in. I have wept thinking about our first Christmas in this home and welcoming that family to stay with us. The thought of it just overwhelms me!
I have been very leery of posting about this because I’ve been too afraid to jinx it. I have been so afraid something would go wrong. But the contract is signed, we have plans to close next month, and I met with the plan designer this morning about drafting the floor plan. I feel confident enough in it now to share with all of you. I ask that you pray that all of this works out as He wishes. I have asked God to guide us where we are supposed to be. To lead us to the friends, neighbors, teachers, and community that will help raise up our child. I believe this is our answer. I am so overwhelmed with gratitude.
Brace yourselves for the flood of construction photos…it’s going to be a fun process!