I'm standing over the stove cooking while my husband mows the lawn outside. For a brief moment, it appears he's Ozzie. I'm Harriet.
He works outside the home; I'm a stay-at-home mom. He brings home the proverbial bacon; I fry it up in the pan. Cleaning and household chores? Well, I'm just better at it. It's 2013, but we play these traditional roles well. Or do we? (Cue music.)
Let's back up several years to B.Z. (Before my daughter, Zoe). My husband, Joe Diaz, is a traveling salesman (a.k.a., pharmaceutical sales representative) and I'm a creative artist (a.k.a., choreographer). He's also an art collector and back then he served as president of Blue Star Contemporary Arts Museum, helping shape it into the prominent gallery it has become.
I was the executive director of San Antonio Dance Umbrella, promoting all dance genres. For many years, my studio was home to the only professional modern dance company in the city. We lived parallel lives supporting the arts for the greater part of 10 years. When we finally met, married, and had Zoe, we were older than Ozzie and Harriet (although I can boast I'm still in my 40's; my husband, not so much, wink-wink).
Fast forward to present day. He still travels about five days a week and I'm a Monday-thru-Friday-stay-at-home-mom. Our daughter is more like Punky Brewster than a Disney princess. And we live in the heart of the city, just north of downtown, in an apartment that was formerly my studio.
I bought the 2,600 square foot, two-story duplex in January 1997 and converted the upper apartment into a loft-like space for a dance studio (named Treehouse Dance Space because it felt like we were dancing in the trees). Downstairs is the living quarters and both floors boast maple hardwood floors (a dancer’s dream).
The neighborhood is small and quaint, nestled between Olmos Park and Monte Vista, with easy and quick access to all major highways. Like ours, most homes in the area have lots of "character" – another word for "old" – they were built between the 1940s and 50s. The lots are small but dominated by large shade trees.
A pharmacist and his wife, Dennis and Ollie Poe, built this place and their names still grace my mail slot. The older neighbors tell me he worked at Olmos Pharmacy (before drugstore was converted into the restaurant/venue Olmos Bharmacy). I’m the third owner.
One of my favorite things about living in my ‘hood is the luxury of walking everywhere. Go one or two blocks in any direction and you’ll find some of the most longstanding and popular places to eat. On any weekday morning I’ll meet up with other mom friends at Panchito’s or Taco Taco. Lunch might find me at Jim’s or Hearthstone. I’ve ordered a milkshake or two at Olmos Bharmacy (and caught a few live late-night shows too). If I need a few items, I walk one block to H-E-B. My husband likes to cycle and usually treks around Omos Basin.
But our leisure time is not confined only to our ‘hood.
Sometimes we’re willing to hop in our car and make a short drive to other favorite hangouts within a five mile radius of our "Almost Park" home. Some afternoons I take Zoe to Landa Library and playground to play with friends. Friday nights are reserved for consistently delicious steaks from Josephine Street Cafe (make sure to ask for Camille or Esmie; they’re the best waitstaff on the planet).
Saturday is a perfect day to fight for a parking spot at The Pearl Brewery complex where we’ll gladly stand the wait time for a table at La Gloria and then walk along the river to San Antonio Museum of Art for an afternoon of art gazing.
On Sundays I make the short drive to The Quarry Farmer's and Ranch Market for pastured eggs and grass-fed beef. Lately, we’re eating gluten free so it’s become our Sunday tradition to order crepes for breakfast from Gluten Free Foods (Zoe gets strawberry jam and my favorite is the Sunrise) followed by a popsicle or a macaroon.
It’s a charmed life in the heart of the city. But every rose has it’s thorn, as they say.
The messy part of my ‘hood is the assisted living home (I use that term "assisted" loosely) on my block. Often times we’ll see men who suffer from mental disorders roaming our streets, from sun up to sun down. They’ve never hurt us physically, but they are a nuisance. On more than one occasion, I’ve called SAPD in the middle of the night to ask them to remove a resident off my front porch who’s forgotten where he lives. Sadly, last August, three men perished in a fire at their residence (a fourth man died at the hospital the next day).
The neighbors and I were angered, but not surprised, that such a tragic fate befell our wanderers. A few of us, including me, were interviewed by local media about the tragedy; most of us called our councilman in protest of their living conditions. The home had several code compliance violations and appears vacant at present (you can read/watch the WOAI story here).
If the “for sale” sign in the front yard is any indication that it has been shut down by the city, then our prayers have been answered. But rumor has it the owner is moving her operation elsewhere. And I still see one or two of the former residents walking the streets.
So should we stay or should we go? Like most families who have young children, we've contemplated moving to a suburban neighborhood with newer housing (although Castle Hills is as far as I'm willing to go).
Our home lacks efficiency of space and contemporary amenities. Our safety and health are always in the back of my mind (we’re living with old wiring, lead pipes, lead paint, asbestos).
The sprawling lots in Castle Hills are very attractive, especially when most come with swimming pools. The homes tend to be ranch style, with expansive square footage (I always dug the Brady Bunch home). And the traditional mom in me wants her kid to run amok in a large backyard.
But moving means no longer being in close proximity to the lifestyle I’ve grown accustomed to for the last 16 years. Plus, I know my husband secretly wants to stay in this little pocket of the woods. And truth be told, so do I.
Upon closer observation, our lifestyle is not very traditional, and never has been. We're just plain old urbanites. The solution might be in remodeling this little gem into an urbanite's dream space. I want a new kitchen. My husband wants walls for his art. As for mini-me, she just wants a treehouse.
Georgina Morgan is an artist who expresses herself through dance, creative writing, teaching and motherhood. She's an adjunct professor and choreographer at St. Philip's College, but her full time job is Mom to Zoe. Contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.