Blog: Corbyn Hightower
This is what people love to call a first world issue. I'm sitting at a cafe, trying to write with the vague promise of money for my efforts on the horizon, while my under-employed husband plays with and tends to our two youngest (healthy, brilliant, and adorable) children. My dream is that sometime soon, my memoir will be published, and I will be a real, professional writer, and we might not be quite so financially strapped.
"Now Mom, I'm going to have you sit on the floor in front of the hearth. Sisters, can you sit on either side of your mom? Put your hand on her shoulder, there . . . that's it. Dad, can you hold Brother in your lap? Okay, hold that smile, perfect!" Five matching white shirts in a row, before an artificial fire.
My first word was "light." My son's, too. I love light in many forms: vintage lamps with yellowed shades, strings of Christmas bulbs, paper Chinese lanterns, the golden glow from windows at night, fireflies blinking in the Texas evening, the multicolored circles in a lens flare streaking across a shaft of sunlight in a late afternoon photo.
Back when I had a real job, we lived in a planned subdivision that was specifically designed to foster the feeling of community and car-free convenience. Out in exurbia, it was far enough away from city center that it discouraged all but the most determined of commuters. We moved there after our family grew by the addition of two more children, at the same time the apartment complex we occupied downtown suffered the fate of its neighbors and was converted to expensive condominiums.
Sometime in the darkest and grayest folds of winter, we have a "false spring" here in Northern California. It usually comes sometime after the glittering artificiality of the holidays are over, when the trees are just gray slashes against a sky so bleak that it has a yellow cast. The syrup of sunlight and warmth is like a gift and I wake up full of energy, with plans for the seedlings I've been nurturing on the windowsills.
Like almost everyone I know, I am following the OWS activity with interest. My family can't really Occupy--we have school-age children, we babysit, my husband works daily, we have no car, and we live twenty miles from the closest site of activism. We also happen to live in one of the most commercial, materialist suburbs in the area, with every big box store represented, and a mall that draws buyers from far and wide. But our family is feeling the effects of the movement as the topics it raises ripple through our networks and inform almost every interaction and conversation.
Living without a car in suburbia is making for some scrappy and strong children, a side-effect I find most pleasing. Distances, discomforts, and journeys that smack you in the face with one frustration following another don't create the fatal wreckage they would in other--softer--households.
Blackberry bramble grows wild all over our town. Many consider it a menace. It’s invasive, and it will choke everything out and take your fence down in the process. It’s easy to identify, with spreading thorn-covered vines and broad elliptical leaves. Sometime in the late spring, it’s covered with white blossoms that eventually turn into tight, chartreuse clusters that mature until they become soft, darkly purple berries by July or August. It’s hard to buy blackberries: they’re fragile, and so expensive.
As I posted my ad on Craigslist I felt a combined anger and sadness. (“Excellent condition 2006 Honda Pilot with leather interior. Silver. Seats seven, or eight in a pinch. Clean title, impeccably maintained . . . “) And then, a breaking sort of goddamn it, we don’t need this car, this car doesn’t define me and it doesn’t define my family. That safety it represented was an illusion. Or rather, the safety it offered now was in what it could give us financially.
Corbyn Hightower decided to take a two day bike trip to a wedding with her friend K., both towing their kids behind them. This is part two of what happened.