"Do they have babies or do they just like, hang out?"

Skylar was talking to the woman feeding the peacocks that roam our neighborhood year round. It didn't occur to me that this was an odd thing until I mentioned it to someone a few months ago.

"Peacocks? The birds? They just . . . wander around town?"

They technically live in a small community just next to my house that was saved by the city from destruction and turned into a walkable park last year. That community was shrouded in secrets all through my childhood because there was a rumor that only little people lived there. We always called it "Hobbitville."

"But you obviously can't say that anymore," I told Skylar when I first introduced the place to him a few years ago from the street, since only residents were allowed inside. "I think the official name is 'Allen Park'. Some say no one has ever seen anyone go in or come out . . ." I ominously concluded before realizing Skylar was no longer listening.

"We are excited to announce the public opening of Hobbitville!" the mayor suddenly announced in early 2020. "Come enjoy this city treasure!"

"You don't understand!" I screamed at Skylar when he noted that my enthusiasm for this was at least double his. "I grew up being told no one was allowed in there. I grew up hearing it was a beautiful and magical place. I've always wanted to go and never thought I could!"

I told Skylar this felt like Willy Wonka's Factory opening up to select children, before realizing the unintentional Oompa Loompa comparison. "I just mean it feels like a magical secret is opening its doors and I found the golden ticket!"

We scoured the internet to find out whatever we could about Allen Park. We discovered very little about the "Hobbitville" rumors, apart from vague references to the name. We learned that the place was built a century or more ago by an eccentric physician who decorated it with small houses, painted poems, and mosaic tiled art. We learned that developers planned to doze it and build housing or something there. The city intervened and purchased it to protect it after the neighborhood lost its collective mind over all of this.

We followed the updates for the next several weeks until the city posted on the internet that Allen Park was now free to roam.

Skylar and I quickly jogged there, Duncan in tow, the moment we were able. When I tell you I felt like my childhood dreams were being realized and like I was doing something wrong by walking the length of the place simultaneously, you need to understand this is not a joke. It was wonderful and yet still felt so forbidden.

The city has posted actually a pretty decent short virtual tour, for those interested:

The houses are now dilapidated—some ready to fall into the stream that runs the length of the park. The art is looking a little worse for the wear. The peacocks wander and greet the guests. Duncan tries not to make eye contact with them, presumably because he's terrified.

"No," the woman told Skylar yesterday on our most recent walk. "These peacocks are not currently reproducing. They are all males."

"Oh, of course!" Skylar laughed. "I guess I haven't seen a female around the neighborhood in years!"

As we walked away I whispered to him, "were you just messing with that woman?"

Skylar looked puzzled. "No. I haven't seen any female peacocks lately. Have you?"

I confessed that I wouldn't know the difference, and then spent the rest of our walk home learning peacock facts I had no idea my inquisitive husband apparently had in his back pocket.

~It Just Gets Stranger