How Family Memories Make This Alabama City Pure Magic

Picture sunshine exploding into a million crystals of light, flung across the sky and splashing quickly on the surface of a minivan. There’s a hose attached to the quiet side of Fire Station 29 on the east side of Birmingham that’s held by the large and calloused hand of a Black fireman. Little grinning Black children run gleefully from the splash of that hose as it ricochets, expertly aimed, off the van’s body and forms droplets on their brown arms and legs. Imagine their laughs filling the open air. 

That’s what comes to mind when I think of the most special place, my home city, But by “home,” I also mean my family. My dad, Chief Donald Lewis Jones, was the man with the hose, but he’s now living in heaven after his sudden passing in spring 2021. He showed me every glowing thing about the Magic City. Although he’s no longer with me, I find him in every place.

We used to head out on Saturdays, just my mom, my dad, and me. It was rare to have my parents to myself since I’m one of four children, and I cherished every single weekend morning when the three of us would drive to , a welcome stretch of greenery in the city center. Birmingham on a sunny Saturday is a particularly sweet thing—the sunlight caresses the treetops and the skyscraper windows with the same enthusiasm. Everything is aglow. We would walk the length of the park and even make our way to the beautiful Rotary Trail. Some mornings, we’d spend our time meandering . Mom and Dad would always buy a big summer watermelon, and although I don’t like the taste of them, it would thrill me all the same to see my parents select the perfect one and chat about how sweet it might be. “Did you hear how it sounded when we knocked on its rind?” they’d ask. 

My dad loved plants. He was an avid gardener, and we always had fresh fruits and vegetables from his raised beds. It was his sanctuary. He’d make colorful arrangements for my mom with the flowers he had grown, and sometimes I even helped him harvest his crops. Plants were a huge part of our family, so much so that we’d all go to the several times a month just to walk and enjoy the beauty of the trees that covered us in shade, to see the new flower beds they planted each year, and to check their pest-fighting methods in the vegetable garden. 

Dad liked to take us up an impossible hill near the Ireland Iris Garden, just to show us he still had it and could beat us in a race. That was my body’s least enjoyable part of the day but my heart’s favorite: I would be out of breath but full of pride that I was keeping up Dad’s pace, following right behind his sure feet. 

And that’s what Birmingham is to me now—it is the twinkling light of a summer sprinkler, the sights and smells of the crops that feed us. It is the certainty of my Dad’s love, his protection, and his spirit always blossoming in the Magic City. 

news flash