Alabama is not like Colorado. There are no mountains here. There are not yet any cool breezes swinging through the valleys of the front range here. There is no Alamo Drafthouse Movie Theater here where I can order fried dill spears and apricot wheat beer while participating in a Pitch Perfect sing-a-long. There is not yet too much laughter here between me and my friends & coworkers over whether or not I’m being passive aggressive in staff meetings or while we’re sharing life points over warm muffins and quiche at Mimi’s Cafe. The nearest hot wings and beer are no longer 10 minutes away, but now in the next town over. My hair stylist is not here, and my gray hairs did not get the memo to slow down their regeneration. My church is not here; to be fair, my church wasn’t in Colorado either. I left it in Illinois two moves ago. My gym is not here with all its fancy equipment, newly renovated locker rooms and plethora of Zumba classes. My University of Denver classmates aren’t here, and I’m feeling a little isolated and out of touch as I embark on the next phase in this dissertation journey–a lone woman in a sea of not.
And there are other ways that Alabama is not like Colorado–some terrifying, others lovely. As an example, in Colorado, you will be hard-pressed to find American Cockroaches. Here in Alabama, they can grow to be as big as 2 inches, and they like to welcome you home as you approach your front door–hanging out just about head-level on the brick walls of your house–much more friendly than in Colorado where THEY DO NOT EXIST. Not to be outdone by their distant insect cousins, the friendliness of the spiders in Alabama is certainly not mirrored in Colorado. Colorado spiders will hide out in nooks and crevices of the windows and behind door frames if you don’t clean well enough (so I’ve heard); however, Alabama spiders will weave elaborate and enduring webs around your kitchen faucet or the legs of your kitchen chairs–you know, the things you use every day so you won’t feel lonely. They will also decorate your door frames and patio furniture in such a ninja-like way that you won’t even see them until you have a face full of their habitat artwork. They are so welcoming and persistent, they refuse to be dissuaded despite the Terminix guarantee right there on the receipt. And Colorado cannot hope to compete with Alabama’s humidity that activates the sweat glands the moment you step out of a freezing cold shower, literally chasing down and obliterating the dry spot just created with the towel. Alabama has the gift of sweat: sweat on the upper lip, sweat down the middle of the back, sweat under both armpits, sweat down the back of the neck, sweat running down the shins—sweat. But there is also not too many hills to run on…and running outside is easier without Colorado’s altitude–I’m up to 4 miles a day again. And without the altitude, I somehow feel…lighter…not thinner–don’t get it twisted–but lighter here at sea-level.
Perhaps the lighter feeling comes with other things Alabama offers that Colorado just cannot: space and distance. My boys wake up in our home every morning, and I pick them up from school every afternoon. Every weekend they drive me crazy wanting to play the WiiU at 6 a.m. on Saturday. And while the ideal would be for the boys to have both their parents within easy reach, we’re making the best of another person’s choices. I easily meet my own gaze in the mirror each morning (mascara-smudged as it sometimes is), and, best of all, I happily meet the gazes of my boys every day, every single day, without interruption. After I pack tomorrow’s lunches, fix our dinner, oversee their homework, and read our bedtime stories, we say our prayers each night. We say prayers of love and hope and blessings for all the people the boys love in their lives, whether in Colorado, Indiana, Illinois, Pittsburgh, Florida, or down the hall. Their world keeps expanding with each move, each type of parent, each new sibling, each grandparent, cousin, and family friend. And my world gains distance on the heartbreak that has been a fairly constant companion over the last several years. No, Alabama is not like Colorado. And that’s beginning to be okay with me.