Yeah, community. I don’t really need one. I know that. I’ve got virtually everything a person can get from a “Pagan Community.” For larger-scale discussions, I have the Internet. I am not alone. I am never alone.
However, I seem to still crave one. Like an addict, looking for the next fix. Every time the possibility of one comes up…no matter where…there I am, digging my heels in and trying to force something that should only happen naturally anyway.
Why? That is the real question.
So I’ve been introspecting. A lot. Trying to find the root cause of this behavior of mine. If I find it, and understand it…well, maybe I can stop beating my head against every single brick wall I find hoping for some different reaction than the last gazillion I’ve gone up against.
Jousting at windmills anyone?
In my recent withdrawal into hermit status, I began to poke into my memories to see if I can figure this out.
The first thing that occurred to me is that I was raised with a community. In a very unusual set of circumstances, no less.
I grew up in a quiet Midwestern suburb. An affluent Midwestern suburb. We weren’t affluent, we were pretty solidly middle of the middle class. But my parents had been raised blue collar…blue-collar working people from Iowa. Truth be told, my mom is from that same town that “Music Man” was based on. Yeah, and that’s how they are still to this day. Very practical, pragmatic, and proud of being working-class. Good work ethic, pride in what they do, the whole nine yards.
So even though we landed smack-dab in the middle of a town with more money than common sense, I was raised with the principles of a different…well, era, honestly. A little backward to most people in that town I suppose. And because my parents were the first generation in their families to have graduated college, they were profoundly proud of having that bit of lambskin and determined that their children would be as educated and cultured as was humanly possible.
So despite the fact that we were solidly middle-class, we didn’t have the luxuries. When the Gloria Vanderbilt jeans were HOT and kids were paying $75 for a pair of jeans (this is 30 years ago remember. The kids in that town are likely paying $400-500 for jeans) I was running over to the Sears outlet and buying jeans for $2 a pair. And I was not embarrassed. I was proud.
The money was instead spent on lessons. All three of us kids were in ice skating. We had swimming and tennis lessons every summer. My brother was in tumbling/gymnastics, I was in ballet. (Briefly. Admittedly my friend and I got a HUGE case of the giggles and were asked to not come back…) the boys were on soccer teams. I was on the swim team and succeeded in attaining my lifesaving certificate (which I admittedly never actually used). We took horseback riding lessons, I took fencing. We had tutors to get us through the worst of our classes…French for my brother, math for me. Piano lessons for all of us. Guitar lessons for me…
Learning was all important.
It sort of sucked being the daughter of a teacher because I really didn’t have a summer break. They made me write essays, themes, and book-reports all summer long…lessons that I suppose contribute to my need to blog…
So I was in an odd household to begin with. My mother was obsessed with the concept of the “Renaissance Man” and determined that we would be well-rounded, well-educated adults.
So the family I grew up in was weird to begin with.
Then there was the neighborhood that this house was set in. Unlike all the other streets in that town, this was a block that went nowhere, just ended quietly on a street on each end. Not a cul-de-sac…but there was really no point in driving down that block unless you lived there. I guess that created something of a bubble.
Despite the fact that we were in the suburbs, it functioned more like the ethnic neighborhoods you see in movies all the time…from New York or Chicago. At one point in time I could name every single family on that block. I played with all the girls…and antagonized all the boys regularly. Mrs. C is every bit as responsible for my upbringing as my own parents. In fact, I guarantee you that I got a lot of my sense of humor from her. Across the street from them was a family with two girls who were at the same ice skating school as me. Next door to Mrs. C was another family…hell, I’ve known that girl since she was in diapers. Up the street from us at the top of the hill was another school friend of mine that I’ve known since I was five…and her mother and mine ran in-home day care at the same time. They’d bring the troop of kids from her house down to visit us or we’d all tromp up there to visit them.
We left our doors and windows open. If a parent had to run to the store, there was always another parent available…and chances were good we were at that house anyway. A quick phone call or a wave outside…no problem. No one kept score there was none of this “well, I just watched so-and-so’s brats so she’d better return the favor.” Nope. Never.
They borrowed tools and equipment from each other. One of the three cops that lived on the block had a plow on his truck and would come through and plow all our driveways if it snowed badly. When neighbors went on vacation or were sick, there was always a parent off mowing their yard or shoveling their driveway. It was just what we did.
This all sounds like a lovely throw-back, now doesn’t it? Well, when I was in Jr. High the first divorce hit the neighborhood…Mrs. C to be factual. For a long time she didn’t poke her head out of her house. She was worried what we would all say. My dad set her straight. “You’re the one who always came over to borrow things. You’re the one we know and love. What were you thinking?”
And…gracious goodness…although white fright tended to scare all sorts of people out of the inner city and near suburbs…we had us…gasp…a BLACK FAMILY on the block. The mom was my piano teacher. They were no different from any one else in the neighborhood…which is why I didn’t understand at all the difference. When their cousin moved in to town…she was my age…my mom asked me to be friends with her because things were likely to be hard for her at Jr. High. I didn’t understand why my mom asked me that until virtually years later.
Another gasp…when a GAY MAN moved in up the hill. *shrug* He was assimilated into the neighborhood just like everyone else there. The neighborhood could literally take anything.
I’m remembering all this…and I know in my heart this is something that I miss. Did I talk to everyone on the block? No. Did I hang out with everyone on the block? No. But we all pulled together when things were tough, no questions asked. It was the neighborhood.
It still lives on in fact. I don’t see any of them anymore, we’re spread across the country. But I talk to many of them online and my mom’s best friend is still that lady from up the hill who did day care. There’s even a Facebook group for us.
My husband was a satellite member of the neighborhood. He was on the next block over. My grade-school principal married the mom of one of my neighborhood friends, and was at my wedding as were many of the other parents…including my piano teacher and her husband. There’s still love there across the years and across the country.
It will never be duplicated. I don’t even rightfully know how it happened. I just know this is one of the reasons I keep craving and searching for community.