Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Putting the "commune" in community. (Hump Day Hmm 11-14-07)


Happy at the neighborhood Spring Fling at the park. Just one of the fun community memories we have.

When Slouching Mom interviewed me, one of her questions implied (asserted?) that I am frequently Hating on Houston. In my answer, I explained the incredibly rocky re-entry we had into Texas. Then I went on to share the positives, as requested. The biggest positive, as you probably gathered from that post, or maybe the big Halloween party post, or the many times I've posted about the good friends and neighbors I have here...is the community.

When I named the topic for this week as a sort of homage to the people in California who've lost so much due to the fires, I paused to think about what I'd grieve deepest about had, for example, that hurricane hit us and washed away our town as the forecasts predicted.

The answer was quick, and easy: I'd miss my community.

When that hurricane was allegedly heading for us and the mandatory evacuation order came out, we began our preparations. We keep the essentials packed in plastic ready-to-go boxes, so it was easy to throw those in the back of the car. But space was limited; unlike most Texans we have small cars. So we only had space for a week's supply of clothing and toiletries for us and the girls, food and water for us and the pets, and the essential papers and photos. The kids got to bring a couple of special toys. We closed the car, looked at our house, and said goodbye to it and everything in it. It was a curious sense of release. It was two weeks before the girls and I returned. During that time, we lived with our few things, and life? Life was simpler, easier. Life was okay.

I realized: we don't need 90% of what we have. It's gratuitous.

I often miss that Spartan existence.

Things...things are just things. We really care about people. People can't be replaced.

So when we drove away, the knot I felt inside me wasn't about my house, my beautiful mission style bedroom suite, or the intricate paintings I'd spent weeks doing in the nursery. I didn't grieve for the clothes or mementos I'd left behind. I had, in my car, all that immediately mattered to me.

No, the knot that twisted tighter and tighter inside of me was grief and anxiety I felt about losing my community.

We were all evacuating to different areas, and I already missed them. When I thought about loss, the loss I worried about was whether we could all return to our town, just as we left it, back together, the community.

Luckily for us, the hurricane hit north instead of dead at our town. Damage was minimal, and everyone was back in place and together within a couple of weeks.

Other communities aren't so fortunate. And I grieve for them, for their loss.

What makes my community so special? I'll tell you a few anecdotes, and hope it gives you a picture of the warmth and friendliness that infuses my tiny town.

Our Gang

When school lets out, the kids flood down the path through the woods that connects to our neighborhood. Neighborhood parents gather in the small parking lot by the pool to gossip and chat while waiting. The kids usually run up with demands falling out of their mouths before they even say hello, "MOM! MOM! Can Insert Friend Name Here come over?!?! PLEASE?!?!" The answer is usually yes. We are fairly casual and laid back, here. Yesterday, for example, my good friend had about four families over. We don't clean, freshen the air, or bake snacks in advance. We gather in the living room, shifting laundry baskets from sofas, and entertain one another while children---so many moving so fast you can't count---run and play.

If no "official" gathering happens, kids linger near windows listening for the tell-tale shrieks of other kids. As soon as they hear it, they beg to run outside. There are children next door, children across the street, children all around.

They ride bikes in the cul-de-sac, run from backyard to backyard, or front to front. Sometimes a small voice will yell to me, "We're going to play inside So-and-So's house, Mom!"

And I'm okay as long as that parent is okay...we know each other well enough that we feel comfortable.

Adults often do this, too...spontaneously gather for socialization. Someone is in the front yard, someone else walks up to chat, next thing you know, half a dozen people have gathered and decided to pool resources for grilling. Someone always has margarita fixings, beer or wine. If not, the small locally-owned market is just around the corner.

But we plan fun events, too. We have couples date nights, Halloween parties, new year's eve parties, block parties, girl's night out, the big awesome Christmas open house where we hop from house party to house party, the spontaneous after parties that might involve table dancing at certain neighbor's house, holiday festivals in our water side park, and on and on.

If I need a friend to pickup one of my kids, I know I can call on any number of people, and can count on them. I have friends who will watch my kids when I go to the doctor, shop, or need a minute to breathe.

Today I had a friend who came shopping with me just because I wanted company.

I've lived long enough and in enough places to know how valuable this is. I know you don't find yourself living in a town surrounded by not just neighbors, but friends.

My children bloom here.

So hate the weather as I do---and come every May through August at least, you can easily find me hating it up about the ozone, being sick, hating heat, and suffering major cabin fever that has us house hunting in Vermont---and the politics, and some elements of the culture...I love my immediate community.

Next week's topic: Your Name: The Soundtrack. Music. Hearing a song on the radio can flash me back to a specific moment in time. I always laugh whenever I hear Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard because it makes me think of my sister and the two of us goofing off. There are songs I like when I'm happy, songs I like when I'm not. Music. What does it mean for you, in your life? Do you simply listen? Are you a singer? A musician? Were you one? The topic is simply: what role does music have in your life? (Thanks to Emily at Wheels on the Bus for this topic idea!)

Here's the new twist for post submissions: add yourself!

You can link your main URL or your post-specific URL. If you'd like, you can rehost the list on your blog. Just grab the code or ask me and I'll send it to you.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment or email me. Thanks!



Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Using My Words
Julie Pippert REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Julie Pippert RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products

24 comments:

Emily said...

That sounds like about the best community possible. Are you going to be able to stay there, given the health issues?

Julie Pippert said...

Long term? Maybe not. The pro/con list of "should we stay, should we go" is the hardest I've ever tried to make. I can find a much better climate and place where I'll feel physically better but...weigh that against what are the odds of finding such a great community again. But right now, life does seem to be moving us away, eventually, at some point. Maybe.

Christine said...

oh i love my community, too. i love walking down the street and suddenly the whole neighborhood is out and talking. i love running into friends at the super market. and i love working to better the place i live through service.

sounds like we are pretty lucky.

Kyla said...

This is a huge why we want to move. We do not have a neighborhood like that, and I'd love to for the kids to be a part of one. Sounds great.

Kellan said...

Julie, I loved this post. It's so true - the important things are family and friends - the love that sustains us each and every day. Well said. Take care.

painted maypole said...

i want to move into your neighborhood!

jen said...

what a terrific place to live. even if it's not for forever, you had this in your life.

and hey girl...i submitted my link too. whoohoo.

melissa said...

Great post! My community is great, too, but that's not what I wrote about. Not sure I adhered to the theme, per se, but I'm mainling dayquil so I'm surprised anything came out

atypical said...

I was fortunate enough to spend part of my childhood in a community. My oldest children were fortunate enough to spend part of their childhoods in one. Unfortuantely, we don't have much of one right now.

I like hearing the good stuff.

BTW, did you notice, I actually managed to hmmm ON the real day? Now, if I can get a little caffeine in my system, maybe I can make a somewhat intelligent comment on that abstinence post. :)

-t

thailandchani said...

I submitted my link.

Your community sounds awesome! That all kids could grow up in such an environment! :)

Jenny said...

I'm so jealous.

Come move to my neighborhood and we can start a brand new community. A blogging commune, if you will.

Annie said...

I love the sound of your community. Can I mourn what I've never had - because that's what I feel like. We have a 'nice' neighborhood - but most neighbors are much older than us - I'd love for my kids to live somewhere like you - that's how it was for us growing up - and it's not everywhere that it feels safe enough nowadays to live like that.

Great post.

Lawyer Mama said...

I would kill for a community like that. It sounds comfortable and relaxed.

Magpie said...

That sounds like a nice community. We have a little of that, but not enough. I need to do some work.

Julie Pippert said...

Christine, it is great. :)

Kyla, yeah, it makes life...pretty nice pretty often. I do hope you are able to get this, too. Jenny suggests a blogging commune. I suggest you both simply move into my neighborhood. ;)

Kellan, thanks!

PM, you are welcome to. :) I know a nice house up for sale with the best next door neighbor...

Jen I'm so thrilled you joined in. :) And yes, you are right...it is worth something to have had it if it doesn't last forever. ;)

Melissa, of course you were on topic and so glad you joined! Thanks!

Atypical, I did notice, and not only were you on time but wow, you knocked me flat it was so amazing.

If I lived my life for me, I don't think I'd be here, but because I live it for a bigger thing that just me, such as my kids, here we are, and I get a little chokey sometimes to see them having good times, like I had once in my own childhood.

Jenny, see my suggestion (above, to Kyla). :)

Annie, yes you can, because I craved this. We did not move into this neighborhood in this town by accident. We chose the neighborhood and then found a house within it. Our house isn't perfect and I don't love love love it, but. It's nice, and it's here, which makes it great.

Chani, oh I so agree.

LM, should I be afraid? very , very afraid? Checking my doors and windows to make sure they are locked? LOL ;) I wish you get this too.

Andrea said...

OK, I'm up. Took me all day, but I'm up. No brain cells left for commenting on community. Sory!

TwoSquareMeals said...

Sounds like a great community. I really hated the weather and flatness of Illinois, but we had such an amazing community there that it was hard to leave. I hope my kids will have that, even though we are going to be overseas.

I just posted my first Hmmm!

Karen said...

that would be a very hard community to lose, really just almost to hard to do it, if not for the reasons you talk about.

Maddy said...

Love to join in by I am sooo way far behind at the moment.
BEst wishes

Mrs. Chicky said...

In my part of Mass. there's very little community spirit. I'm hoping that will change as my daughter gets older. I'll have to live vicariously through yours.

slouching mom said...

we don't have that kind of community AT ALL in my immediate neighborhood. and now i'm sad.

Her Bad Mother said...

When I was five our house burned down, and we were taken in by neighbors and given stuff by other neighbors and just generally *cared* for by the neighborhood. Funnily, I remember it as a big happy adventure, rather than the near-tragedy that it actually was. Because we were made safe by our community, and what we lost - only material things - didn't really matter.

Suki said...

Ah, you're lucky. :) Glad you have that, you deserve it.

And now I'm the one sitting on a cyclone alert. There are scant provisions for evacuation in this poor, overpopulated country of mine :(, and I consider myself lucky to be living in a concrete house. The cyclone(degree 4) is expected to hit my city any time after midnight.
Never been in a situation of this magnitude before, and I think I'm still in denial.

Can't help thinking back to your posts after Katrina and Rita now...

Suki said...

cyclone hit Bangladesh, not India. posting this just to get over the alarm I might have spread. :P
Feels so weird... we escaped the disaster, but the people who had it just didn't need it.