Sunday, October 9, 2016

On community

A candle, lit. Lesson plans, the week's at-a-glance, filled. A Christmas music start, and other favorites playing. Laundry spinning. I opened the bible study.

Outside, bluster and gusts. There is something about fall that speaks deeply to me of home. And whenever I think of my first home, it is always fall. Back to school. Chilly days and bike rides. Playing along a curb or walking with the moon. And leaves, always leaves. I'd rake them up in the front yard and make outlines of rooms, a floor plan of a pretend home. A place to park my bike. A kitchen. A family room.

I get nostalgic for that first home, something fierce. When Lanie was still a baby in my arms, Shane drove me there, and the great grace of the owners invited me inside. My eyes stung with tears. I don't remember anything but the burning and the overwhelming gratitude to stand in that place, one of the only places that ever meant so much to me.

A few years ago before Erin started kindergarten, the nostalgia hit me again, and we day tripped to old haunts. I stood in that yard again and snagged a photo of my children where my mother once stood, arms around me. I knelt down and ran my hand across the grass. (With the owner's awareness and permission, of course!)

Today, fall leaves spilling across the yard, lifted and tossed like confetti. I suddenly found myself craving home. I looked online, and that first home still belongs to the family who bought it in the 1980s. I smiled at the many years they've lived there, so much longer than my thirteen. I did a google walk down the street, in beginning blossoms of a spring once upon a sometime. I felt thankful I could be transported there in a second, and that I could look to the corner and the neighboring homes, however frozen, and my arms and heart ached.

The memories in that house, ones a child holds onto of joy and delight. Deep snows and birdsong outside a winter window. Jump rope. Book writing. Play houses. Azaleas and hostas. Summer evenings and a backyard made up of neighboring streets and blocks. That first home. How I want to go back there and absorb it all again.

I thought of neighbors, and especially Alouise, who lived behind us. I used to cut through her yard and jump the fence after school. She would muse, "One day, you'll be knocking on my door in your cap and gown asking if you can take the short cut!"

But we moved when I was in seventh grade. And I don't think I ever went back while she still lived there.

In curiosity, I googled her name. And through many tears, I read her obituary.

I remember going to her house unexpected, uninvited, but always welcome. I remember her drinking tea, washing dishes at the porcelain sink in her kitchen. I remember she gave me gifts and visited with me. She told me about the dogwood and Christ. She never married that I know of, and had no children. But she loved me, a neighborhood kid who lived in the house behind hers. And she didn't care that I brought my hamsters along to visit.

Day five of a Beth Moore study, Entrusted. This portion on page 39: "Keep moving and savor the fellow sojourners God deposits along your path, remembering to look back every now and then. A purposeful glance in the rearview mirror will clearly show how desperately we needed what somebody brought us."

And I am undone at the richness of life, community. Why is that first home so rooted in my heart? I think of Alouise, and Miss Mary, the Jacksons on the corner, Bud and Susan and their kids Angie and Sherry, Mr. Porter the mailman, and the guy that lived next door to Alouise and would hand out candy to all the begging children. I walked along all those streets as a child, and I would often meet people my parents never knew, and those people showed me kindness. The man who bought a pillow I was selling in a fundraiser. The group of bikers who let me crash their cookout and offered me water. Mr. Nanson's ice cream run at my request. The family up the street who kept pet squirrels.

"Show how desperately we needed what somebody brought us" ... during my family's turmoil. I think on those events, from the now perspective of a mother who fights for family and home, and I grieve the then child I was playing house while my family was coming apart. Raking floor plans and sitting at a neighbor's house, uninvited, but welcome. (God, how you carried me.)

I wonder what my children will remember of this community, here. Our neighbors, now. (And what do we add to their lives?) Janice, who brings down homemade canned goods. Helen and coffees at the table. And Miss Ivette who has special gifts for my girls. Across the street, the friendly waves, and the exchanges of Valentines. Our kids all growing up on this street. The cul-de-sac walks with my girls in the evening, and the Halloween scamper in darkness--Viviana who accompanies us, and plans again with her this year. The playdates we host all year round with long-time and new friends, memories burrowing into their hearts. Some will look back on their childhood and remember something about this--the crunch of leaves, the splash of blue, the captain's bell sounding, bikes and scooters on the driveway.

Home, and what makes a home. The power of community, the good and bad. And the awareness of a big God who brings lives together in one day, and separates in another.

Sojourners, all of us.
Alouise, 1925-2015. Thank you for being my friend. Welcome, safe, loved, included. You were part of shaping these words in my heart and in my home, and neither of us knew (then) the tremendous value our time together would have on a life.

My childhood home, how I smiled at their table and chairs out front! Tell me they have tea parties!

down the street

down the street

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