By Debbie Van Straten
I moved into a gated community in Alabama last fall. It was the nicest property and a good choice for security while I learned the lay of the land.
The neighborhood was exquisite. I have never seen such an incredible development in the gentle, rolling Appalachian Mountains. Each house was different, but common threads like brick, street lights, lot size, and mailboxes tied it all together.
Upon my arrival, I did notice something peculiar, though. On one of the mailboxes, there hung a pair of running shoes. Each time I drove by it I wondered. My first thought was that someone lost a pair of shoes on the road and the homeowners hung them from their mailbox to be reclaimed. But days went by and the shoes still dangled from the mailbox. I continued to wonder as September flipped to October to November and finally December. The shoes still hung from the mailbox, unclaimed.
Then at the Christmas party I heard the scoop. The shoes were in remembrance of the attack in Boston. I instantly thought, “Wow, nice.” Not so for the rest of the neighbors, though. They were already having discussion with the association management about how to get the shoes down.
There was a lot more buzz about the association not being able to fix the problem. As the family with the shoes hanging from the mailbox was approached by the association to take them down, they pushed back that if they had to take down the shoes, the other neighbors had to take down their football flags and such. Whoa. That was never going to happen.
Don’t ever mess with football in Alabama. From my recollection, I do believe the first thing I heard when I moved here was, “Who are you going to root for, Alabama or Auburn?”
I am a Green Bay Packers fan and equally passionate about my causes, but my cause was not running shoes on a mailbox. I like to see people live in peace and harmony—you know, the hippie spirit.
In January, I was driving home and out of my peripheral vision, I spotted a pink bra hanging from a mailbox. It was quite the boulder-holder, being about D cups. The bra was related to breast cancer awareness, of course. The conflict had risen to a whole new level. I almost veered my car into a mailbox on the other side of the road. If I had just taken a drink of soda, I would have spit it all over my car in laughter.
It is amazing, outside of violence, how people will work issues in their minds until they find a way to resolve them. The talk was now that other neighbors were looking for hot pink bras at Walmart to heat up the brouhaha.
The surrender by the running shoes family was swift and happened shortly after the battle of the pink bras began. The neighborhood went quiet and once again, all things were good in our little gated community. Well, maybe they weren’t really good, but at least the majority controlled the minority and hurt feelings were stifled for revenge at another time.
I do hope the family who so kindly hung the shoes on the mailbox will find another way to remember the victims of the tragedy that doesn’t offend their neighbors. Maybe readers of this story will join them in solidarity and more shoes will be hung on mailboxes in more tolerant neighborhoods while we all remember the freedom of expression we have in this country.