Friday, March 06, 2009

Living In Community

I grew up in a very unique community. We knew everyone in our rural neighborhood and we all went to the same church that was within walking distance. I heard rumors throughout the years that some people thought we were a commune or a cult. I moved away from there ten years ago, and now that I have a little perspective, I can say that it is a bit of a strange place, certainly a little homogenous, perhaps a little bit narrow-minded, but also magical. I grew up in a place where the kids ran wild and free on fifty acres of forest. There were rope swings over ravines and wild berries for eating and moose lurking around corners. We got up to all kinds of adventuring. I remember once climbing the cliff face of a large hill with my friend Anna, and she got stuck. We were out in the middle of the woods with no one but our ten-year-old selves for help, and so eventually, I managed to coach her down.

It wasn’t just a place of running around in the forest. Besides all emerging from our houses to go to church together on a regular basis, our community members spent a lot of time together both in organized activities and informally. One year, someone decided to organize a New Year’s Eve celebration in the church basement, complete with the ubiquitous potluck and talent show-like entertainment. I don’t remember much from that evening, but I do remember that one man composed and performed a hippy-dippy song with this refrain:

Living in community
People are so happy and free
As long as we rely on each other.

Craig and I still remember this song and sing it to one another when we are joking around about my unusual background.

And even though living in my little neighborhood in Chicago was in many ways the opposite of living in my community in Chugiak, Alaska, it was in some ways the same. It was a place where, when the weather turned warm, everyone emerged from their apartments to convene at the park. It was a place where we walked everywhere and where we knew almost everyone. It was a place where I could ask for hand-me-down maternity clothes when my first set were lost and I was newly pregnant with Henry, and clothes poured in, more than I could use. It was also a place where a lot of people had a lot of the same ideas—in this case, about parenting—which was an experience to which I was accustomed.

So when we moved to this little town in central Ohio, I didn’t know how to make friends. There didn’t seem to be many people at the park. A lot of people drove a lot of places. I didn’t see the same people everywhere I went. And—shockingly!—different people parented differently. Our first year here was lonely for me.

But then, right around the time of our one-year anniversary here, something happened. S, whose son was in Luke’s kindergarten class, joined the book club I was in with some old grad school friends. Tracy invited S and I to go to the wine tasting at a local wine shop, and we have begun regularly getting together. One of the grad school friends became real-life friends with some bloggers in my neighborhood, and invited me to hang out with them. Some of those blogger friends invited me to hang out at the park after school. Threads of friends began to overlap and intertwine, and now, nearing our two-year anniversary here, I feel like—oh my, I sense some hippy-dippy song lyrics coming on—a blanket of friends is protecting me and keeping me warm.

Yesterday the weather took a turn toward spring with sun and temperatures nearing 70. We spent an hour after school at the park both yesterday and today, eating snacks, chatting with friends. The boys both found people to play with, things to do. And I felt happy and free.


amy turn sharp of doobleh-vay said...

i loved this post. I am feeling the same as you lately. xoxo

Molly Sabourin said...

Hurray, Ser, for new friends! It makes a huge difference in a mother's quality of life! You, by the way, should write more and more about your childhood!

Patti said...

It's so great, isn't it? As much as I love our little town, I don't think I really ever expected to find a real sense of community here. I lived accross High Street for years and my family never really experienced anything like what we've got going on over here. I think it's the most fabulous thing ever.

I'm so so glad you guys are staying. And of course, I really hope you can stay here in the 'hood!!

Anonymous said...

I think that some people (like you, Ser) can just find the community wherever they are. You are a big part in making it by being wonderful you. No matter where you go you will find good friends, bosom buddies and community. You will find the good things wherever you are and make good things happen.

Jenny said...

Yeah, you were totally built for community. You create it everywhere you go, because you're open to people, you're interesting and warm and humble and you bake! I'll never forgot coming over to your apartment on cold snowy days and eating your fresh baked treats, always leaving feeling a little better about everything.

Thanks for creating community again, on this blog!

Anonymous said...

i love this post! and i do love our community as well. i wish our neighborhood had a park within walking distance (well, we do have the school playground but it doesn't gather people on non-school days the way parks do).

so yung wilson said...

Jenny's post says everything I would want to say - and better.

Miss you and wish I had those skills and abilities for community-building that seem so natural for you.

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