Saturday, November 3, 2012


My next-youngest sister, let's call her Carlotta, is the type of person I imagine might someday be described as a pillar of her community. She's not currently in the role; she's a first time mother of a one year old, living in a new city, and just starting back to work at a new job, after a year at home with her baby.

But she got this new job because she did things like attend an annual Wetland Forum for New York State, and then when she was invited to present, she said yes.

I work alone, out of my home, and I rarely-to-never speak to anyone in my field. I read quite a bit, though.

Some of this is happenstance, and some of it is probably not the slightest bit surprising to our mother.

* * *

I've started a Wednesday morning playgroup, as a sort of prelude to my eventual nursery school. This week I had 5 kids. As we get a routine established, I hope to add more kids to the group (I can take a total of 8), and perhaps expand it to another day in the week.

Instead of advertising on Craigslist (which is where I started with childcare, and was quite successful), I joined a couple of yahoo groups. One is a bigger group for my whole city, and the other is a smaller one specifically for my neighborhood. I also discovered that my neighborhood has it's own Facebook page, so I joined up there too. It turns out I'm primarily attracting neighborhood kids, and getting to know people who live nearby. Nice for the nursery school -the professional piece- but also nice on a personal level.

* * *

My husband and I started dating in February of his senior year in college. He was an art major, in a tiny, Midwestern college town. I was a transfer student from New York State (which might as well have been New York City, for all the difference it made in Kansas). By the time May rolled around, we were engaged, and he was displaying work in pretty much all of the local shows. I accompanied him on his rounds.

He stopped to make small talk with the husband/wife team-teachers, who split both a full-time job and an old elementary school that they had reclaimed and renovated into a home and studio space.

When he dropped in at the local gallery to drop off a series of paintings, he spent some time chatting with the local artist who rented space in the back.

Our small-town watering hole was always a reliable place to find Ernie, if he wasn't standing on the sidewalk outside his house, painting. One way or another, my husband found him when he needed to, and they talked.

I waited by his side, in the same general manner that I waited by my sister's side, over many years. Except that with my sister, I was mostly bored, and wondering: what in the devil are they still talking about!? I was so enamored with my husband and our brand new, bright, shiny love that everything he did was wonderful. I saw this type of small talk in a new light, all of a sudden. This is his PLACE, I thought. He BELONGS here. This seemed marvelous to me, for the first time ever.

* * *

I have a great, big, wonderful family. Probably bigger, and louder, and more enmeshed than a girl who lives mostly in her imagination and between the pages of books, really requires. So I never needed community. I don't have a tribe. Never found my people. Never sought.

My parents live a few hours away. All five of my sisters live less than an hour from them. Two of them have kids the same age as my kids; a third has a baby on the way. They get together for dinner on a random Tuesday. Meet for a cup of coffee or a beer. Jog around the park together. Take advantage of free babysitting.

I had no idea how much it would break my heart to miss out on all of this, by just a few hours.

But my husband has a great job; a job he loves. And tenure. We own a house, and we really, really love our house.

So I'm going to try something I've never had to do before. I'm going to be intentional about building community. After all, this is our PLACE now. I've never belonged anywhere before. But maybe, just maybe, I could.


  1. One of the reasons I always loved being at your house so much was because it always felt like a PLACE. And I so appreciated being automatically welcomed in to your lively home so I could be a part of it. And I was always in awe of you for the effect it had on you, that you were so assured in the middle of so much going on. But that's the exact same quality that makes me know you can belong anywhere. CNY is lucky to have you!

    1. Oh, thank you! That's really kind. You know, it's funny b/c one of the things I thought about Chris when I met him was that he could belong anywhere. It's one of the things I love about him. It's easy to want to just run back to WNY, where I have a built-in PLACE, rather than have to build one. But I think we're going to build. At least for now.