Monday, December 31, 2012

Our "Village"

Did you ever sit back and reflect on something that your kids did that just made you ask, “Where did she/he learn that?” It generally happens to me when one of mine, big or little, does something that I don’t feel that I have sufficiently taught them. I’m talking about something good here. (If it’s something not good, that’s easy - I can place that on their other parent’s heads via genetics.) 

Let me give you an example. One evening my youngest was sprinting back and forth between our house and his friend’s house. Up and down the significant hill we live on he ran, gathering all forms of art supplies, tin foil, empty bottles…. “Do you have something that could look like milk but isn't? ” he asked me. Knowing these boys, I was happy that no real liquids were involved but I still had to ask “For what?” His buddy, one year younger than him, had a project due the following day so Riley was helping him to get it done in time. I asked him about his own project that was due early the next week. “But Mom – he’s stressing and he’s sad and I’m good at these things – even if I haven’t read the book.” I reminded him that he hadn't finished his own book so he’d better be REALLY good at them.

See how I dropped the ball there? With full hair and make-up, I could have turned that into a Hallmark moment or at the very least, a Kodak commercial but instead I helped him load a backpack and sent him off. What in him triggered his need to help his friend and make him not sad? (I mean, when he fights with his sister there is most certainly the intent to do bodily harm.) After what occurred at our house one pre-Christmas night, I think I have kinda figured out part of this mystery. Our kids learn things from everyone around us - the whole “village”.

After a seemingly successful job interview, the first in a long time, I decided, since the car was still running, to bypass my home and attempt some gift shopping for our family holiday gathering. The criterion for our gift exchange has gone from quaint to bizarre. This year all gifts needed to fit in a pocket. This required some seriously thought filled shopping. I hate shopping. Especially in the heels I still had on from the job interview. Jeez! What sized pocket? It could mean a jeans pocket which holds nothing or parka pocket which could hold a small pet. I managed to make some headway with the shopping for what my older daughter is calling our “Little House on the Prairie” Christmas and headed home. Earlier that same pre-Christmas week, two friends had surprised us with a Christmas tree so it was good to know I was going home to a festive feeling house. Little did I know...

I grabbed the bag with a frozen vegetarian pizza that was serving as tonight’s dinner, off the floor of my car and turned to see three of my friends (and one teenage son) walking up the driveway from three cars that were parked in the street. (The three car part was just odd since two of the three are married to each other.) My initial “What’s the matter?” reaction says more about me than it does about them. I feared that I had missed some meeting or the like, in my irritated, post shopping haze.

They assured me that nothing was wrong. They explained that my last blog post had gone a little bit “viral” within our town and that people wanted to help. Their cars were filled with gifts for all of the kids, food, dozens of gift cards for local merchants and so, SO much more. They tried to assure me that many of the donations were made by people who didn't know who we were. I didn't believe that. I wanted names. Once it all sank in - because I knew it hadn't yet - I wanted to be able to acknowledge each and every one of them. They rattled off some names – and more names – and more… It was a true “It’s a Wonderful Life” moment. (With a bit of searching, I’m sure we could have found a Bevin Bell to ring.)

But wait…did they miss the message of my posting? No. They didn't  I watched my kids’ faces as they began to register what was happening. The best gift of the night was when all of my kids – from 12 to 24 – fully understood what this wonderful collection of people – friends, neighbors, relatives of friends & “unknown” friends – had done for us for no reason other than pure goodness. My youngest son helped his friend because we live in a place that models that – daily.

The second best gift of the night was when my younger daughter followed me out to the car to retrieve our frozen veggie pizza and stated “I can’t wait to pay this forward!”

We will continue to mourn here in Connecticut. There are some things we can’t fix. Right now there is nothing we can do for Sandy Hook. We know that. They have asked to be allowed to heal and grieve amongst themselves – their “village”. We can give them that.To those in my town that opted to mirror Anne Curry’s suggested 26 acts of kindness path – you’re good. Thank you our “village”.

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