Tag Archives: neighborhood

Long Ago: Community Entry #20

 

Such comfort from a front stoop in the snowy woods...

As you may know, I am spending a few months in the dormancy of winter, working on a book. And, like last year at this time, I am offering my blog to you. Last year we looked into our Breaking Points and found community and grace in grief and vulnerability. This year we are looking into our past, and finding the weaving of community that stitches us to our present. I will be posting these pieces at These Here Hills. Their authors will be happy to receive and respond to your comments.  Here is the blog post I wrote about this subject.

Contest submissions closed. Winner will receive a scholarship to one of my upcoming Haven writing retreats in Montana, announced mid-February…

Now I am further stepping into the wilderness of Montana and the wilderness of writing. If you’d like to create haven for your creativity…come to a Haven Writing Retreat here in Montana. June, August, and September retreats are now booking and filling fast.  Email me for more info:  Laura@lauramunsonauthor.com

Community of Small Things, by Renee Lux

When my daughter was still young enough to need naps, I would wake her every afternoon by cracking open her bedroom window. From the playground across the street we could hear the sound of children playing, the dull “thunk” of a basketball and the rhythmic squeak of rusty swings. I would whisper in her ear, “Wake up. Your friends are waiting for you,” and a smile would break out across her sleepy face.

For two years, we lived in a neighborhood of multi-family homes, perched at the top of a steep hill just a few T-stops west of Boston.  The playground and dog park was geographically and socially at the center of our community. Everyday at 10 and 3 my daughter would meet up with a posse of one year-olds on the playground. Together they learned to walk in the sandbox, toilet trained in the bushes and shared birthdays at the picnic table, while we mothers and nannies would gratefully share adult conversation.

In this community, the hours of the day were marked by the comings and goings of our neighbors. Breakfast was punctuated by the sound of a Harley roaring to life. “Anthony’s daddy is going to work!” my daughter would announce.

In the evening, a neighbor who faced the park would begin practicing on her baby grand piano, and everyone knew it was time to head home for dinner.

In summer, dog owners would return with beer and wine to watch the dogs roughhouse in the grass while the kids; some in their pajamas, took one last ride on the swings before sunset.

Here we had a community on our doorstep. Friendly faces and daily contact lay just on the other side of our own front door.  So, it broke our hearts to move on – on to a new town, a better job and a better opportunity.

In our new neighborhood every home has a playground in the backyard. Every other home has a swimming pool, and every third house has an automatic gate and a tall boxwood hedge for privacy. The nearest public playground is usually empty and there are no sidewalks for trick-or-treaters or dog walkers.

For a long time, I only had acquaintances in this town. My network was a sampling of women who made small talk from behind their sunglasses and brushed cheeks with me at school socials.

One day, out of nowhere, a mom who I had known for less than a year invited me to join her and some girlfriends on trip to Miami to celebrate her 40th. I remember thinking that this was a bizarre invitation from someone I barely knew. I politely declined and told my husband, “I don’t think I’m ready for that level of commitment.”

I sailed along without commitment or community, until one day, out of habit, a neighbor asked about my husband. As it turns out, he had just been laid off- a situation that was so new and traumatic that I wasn’t able to simply respond, “He’s fine.”

My answer was a rambling recitation of office politics and back-story delivered with subtle tones of shame. When I was done, my neighbor removed her sunglasses and looking at me with warm green eyes said, “I know how brutal it can be. My husband lost three jobs in three years.”

I was caught completely off guard. Suddenly I realized that this woman wasn’t an acquaintance, she was a friend!

My neighbor extended me a lifeline, so I took hold and asked her how she coped and how she cared for her family. She was honest and forthcoming and during our extended unemployment she was part of my support system. I tested the waters in other relationships and found there too were lifelines just waiting for me.

Today, that woman whose 40th birthday I missed, is my best friend and we have pulled each other through all sorts of intimate tragedies and victories. Sometimes I look at her and think back to that invitation, that fearless act of friendship that she extended to me and I wonder, “How did she know?”

I have learned to extend lifelines of my own and in return I have the satisfaction of knowing that I am part of what nourishes the community that supports me. I stopped at a friend’s house today and gave her a break from her two flu-stricken daughters. She gave me a Tupperware of homemade soup for lunch and I will return it this evening with something for her dinner. I am the emergency contact for half a dozen families at school, and they are mine. I am the back-up nanny for a full-time working mom. I am part of a neighborhood carpool. My garbage collector’s name is Julio and he has two young daughters. My mailman, Yves is from Haiti. Once again, friendly faces and daily contact lies just on the other side of my front door.

While it may not have the Norman Rockwell patina of our Boston neighborhood, my new community revealed that it too has depth and strength. What I have today is not built on something arbitrary like the proximity of a park; it is built on daily acts of faith and friendship, small things that are within everyone’s reach.

 

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Long Ago: Community Entry #9

Taking a break from the writing. Reading an old time favorite. "Live the questions." --Rilke

For those of you who have been submitting to and following this “Long Ago:  Community” writing series/contest…I want to thank you.  Your supportive comments and vulnerable stories represent the staples of true community:  support, bravery, creativity, generosity, and the willingness to share. 

As I enter into the next part of my solo writing retreat to work on my novel, it brings me great joy to know that you all are here, holding These Here Hills in my absence.  My Haven Writing Retreat season will soon begin, and I have learned that if we are going to nurture and inspire other people in their self-expression, we have to begin by doing just that for ourselves.  If you are interested in joining me for a retreat, email me at Laura@lauramunsonauthor.com.  June is fast filling.  And August, and September are now booking.  Contest winner for Haven scholarship will be announced soon…  Submissions are closed…  For more info click here.

Please enjoy this nostalgic piece about neighborhood magic by Betsy Nelson!

yrs.

Laura

The House at the End of Belvedere Road, by Betsy Nelson

 

When I was a girl growing up in the 1970’s living in a Texas town near the Louisiana border, I often visited my friend Molly’s house at the end of Belvedere Road.  Most houses on Belvedere were roomy, two-story brick traditional, enveloped by the deep green leaves of sprawling Live Oak trees and angular pine trees. But the very last house on this small-town street was not like the rest.

To begin with, it didn’t look like any of the other houses. The exterior was rough stucco, the color of French Vanilla ice cream.  It was topped off with an aged slate roof that looked like small, uniform waves, or like the curly, hard Christmas candy I found in my stocking each year.

The house was U-shaped, built around a central courtyard, shadowed by the iron balconies that lunged overhead, from the second-story bedrooms.  In the middle of the pebbled courtyard was a trickling fountain with a quirky bronze statue of an owl perched above it.  The image of this mysterious owl at his post, haunted and sometimes comforted me, as I caught glimpses of him on restless nights when I would sleep over.

Upon entering the house through the side door, into the kitchen, I would glance at the simple chalkboard hung on the wall next to the telephone, which was usually ringing or occupied.  Scribbled on the board were chalky messages or funny hand-drawn pictures, chronicling the various comings and goings of a lively family of seven children and their Mom and Dad.  If I was lucky and it was close to dinner when I visited, the kitchen would be filled with the pungent aroma of garlic and onions sautéing in preparation for some fabulous, exotic Southern dish.

Walking through the house on my way to the backyard, I would feel the warm sunlight streaming in through a wall of tall windows, as I passed the pine dining table, where twelve whitewashed, ladder back chairs stood neatly aligned, until the family would arrive and disrupt all order bringing vibrant life to the abandoned scene.

Sliding open the heavy glass doors that led to the expanse of sweet-smelling, green grass and billowy clover with bees hovering above their fragile stalks, I was met by a familiar chorus of gleeful, Southern voices and raucous laughter.  There, a throng of athletic-looking, tow-headed children of various sizes, ages and abilities, encircled a mammoth, jet-black canvas trampoline.  Calling, “Hi!” and “Come On!”, the family and a mélange of neighborhood children, jostled to make room for me there beside them.

Spindly, suntanned arms stretched out to rest on the cushioned rim careful not to get fingers caught in the coiled springs. All heads looked up at the glorified kid of the moment, the one taking his turn jumping on the trampoline.  Some could bounce high and touch their outstretched toes while suspended for a moment in the air.  Some could do flips, bounce up, land cross-legged on the canvas and bounce up again.  Others could do little more than jump shyly and roll onto the ground, holding their sides, aching from too much laughter.  Oblivious to all this, were Queenie and Greta, two silky, steel-gray and snow white, German Shepherd dogs, stretched out grandly on the cool ground in the sphere of shade beneath the mighty trampoline.

When we finished, a few of us might sneak off and clamber up the bare wooden stairs to the steaming, windowless attic of the house, to dig through the Magic Box, a deep, Chinese-red trunk, filled to overflowing with velvety and satin costumes, smelling of old perfume.  Or perhaps, with the late-evening sun beating down, we would climb onto our bikes and take off for the dusty “hills”, a bank of hard-packed dirt, nothing more than the result of a bayou that had been dug alongside the house.  Wheels whirring, our bikes glided up one side and coasted down the other until sunset streaked the sky coral pink and mustard yellow.  Then, reluctantly, we would all say bye to each other, as we would leave to return to our own homes, and anticipate the next time we would be lucky enough to visit this enchanted place on Belvedere Road.

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Filed under Blog series-- Long Ago: Community, My Posts