Living in Jane Jacobs’ Neighborhood

In the Rainey Street District of Austin, Texas, a stranger approached my dog, hand extended. “Puppy!” she shrieked weirdly, a piercing decibel, especially for the hour of day. My first thought is that she closed the bars and is drunk, but, she’s not. She and her friend are in fashionable workout gear, probably all ginned up on coffee and ready for some speed-walking.

Otherwise, relative calm prevails early mornings in my neighborhood when I slip out the door to take Ezzy for her walk.

My neighborhood is a trendy downtown bar district, home to live music, food trucks, drinking holes and raucous partying. But early mornings, it’s even better, with neighbor brushing against neighbor and work crews quietly coming and going, cleaning up what was left behind from the previous night’s revelries. I stop to put a beer glass on an outdoor table that someone has left on the sidewalk outside of Bangers and exchange hellos with the manager.

“How’s the girl?” Brian says. My daughter worked for him the summer before college. He wrote a warm reference letter on her behalf for a volunteer program she’s now involved with at university. When my husband and I stop in for drinks, Brian sometimes says they’re on the house and we trade stories about vacation and raising teenagers.

In the early 2000s I read Jane Jacobs’ magnum opus, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, on the workings of a great city. This 585-page hardback enjoys a prominent place on my shelf, standing proud though dozens of fuchsia post-it-notes marking the best of the best sections from my first read protrude like a child’s unruly tufts of hair. Jacobs was a long-time resident of Greenwich Village and she starts her book at the beginning, with the humble sidewalk, the fundamental building block of a city.

Read in full on StrongTowns.org

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Teaching Our Kids to Love Fully in an Unfair World

Today, a bird slowly died in front of my children. The impact against our sliding glass doors was deafening. Housebound by a winter storm, the kids and I quickly abandoned our hot chocolate in our rush to discover that a bright crimson cardinal had struck the glass. It now lay helpless in the snow.

Be honest and don’t construct a cover-up. What’s been seen can’t be unseen: I watched, helpless to intervene or make my kids unsee this tragedy. The suffering we were witnessing elicited, “Mom, let’s help it!” “Should we bring it inside and nurse it?” “What do we do?” “Poor bird.” Our 12-year-old’s large eyes were brimming with tears. Her younger brother couldn’t look away. I wanted as badly as my kids to watch this bird miraculously fly away. But the cardinal grew still and we, silent, mourning the loss of an innocent bird.

Show sensitivity and respect for their particular attachments: Unlike adults, children fall in love fearlessly, without baggage. Maybe it’s toys as much or more than the people surrounding them they cherish. In the case of my children, it was their stuffed animals—each complete with name and personality.

As enjoyable as it was for me to witness the creative powers at work in my children’s play, I knew that the depth of attachment would create a storm of trouble if any of these animal kingdom favorites were lost. After all, these were real as flesh and blood friends in my children’s world. On many occasions, we did come close to losing a stuffed friend. At the grocery, in the airplane, on the sidewalk, silently fallen out of the stroller.

In every instance, the look of shock and pain in the affected child’s eyes was a small step into the brutal world, where fierce affection is often accompanied by sorrow, a pain equal to the love.

Read in full at Houston Family Magazine.