We all know that ‘community’ is much more than the neighborhood you live in. I’m lucky enough to have lived in a community that meets all those definitions. You know…neighborhood, friends, family, etc.
It’s one of those tiny towns where it takes you an hour to walk one block. Where going to the general store to get your mail can turn into an all-day event with side trips to the river and someone’s garden, and to borrow a book.
I can’t tell you how many times I saw the knowing grin on my son’s face, or the skeptical look on my husband’s face when I’d say ‘I have to run this book over to Sabrina’s…I’ll be back in a minute.’ And once at Sabrina’s, one story would lead into another story and then another story, and suddenly the stars are coming out.
We’ve laughed and cried together just like any family or community has. We have a history, and so very many stories.
And it’s also a community that knows how to have fun.
This month Sam Grafton’s family will mark his 30th birthday. Three years have passed since he left us.
Three years. That’s such a strange thing to wrap my head around. In some ways it was just yesterday when the call came, and in other ways it’s been an eternity since his family’s world was shattered into billions of bright, sharp points of heartbreak.
In some ways it was just last week that he was a baby rocked in the arms of a friend at the edge of the river.
It was just yesterday that he sat on his mom’s lap and turned his face from me when I was trying to practice doing an evaluation on a toddler.
It was just a few minutes ago when my husband took him in a raft down the Wenatchee River. It was just an hour ago that he and I talked about the test for his driver’s license.
How does life go by so fast? Everyone tells you to treasure the time you have, but we of course don’t. We get caught up in day-to-day work and chores and responsibilities. We get impatient and frustrated and irritable…and then the time is gone. And then the person is gone.
It takes conscious effort to slow down and remember to value those around us. And in the meantime, the whirlwind of time flies by.
Compared to life on this planet, that’s not even a miniscule particle.
Compared to being without someone, it’s an eternity.
1,095 days without Sam in our lives. 26,280 hours since all those tiny candle flames lit up the bridge over the river so his spirit could find his way home in the mountain dark.
I wish I could shape time for those I love, those he left behind. Speed it up or slow it down, or simply ease its passage. But like the river that took Sam, time keeps just flowing around us and we are powerless in its current.
For his mother, who swims those currents, I hope that river holds you in its flow and that you find beauty in its depths and healing in its passage.
Wherever you are, Sam, it’s the time we mark your birth, your arrival into our lives. No matter how much time passes, we are grateful for the years the universe granted us, and I’m sorry we took that time for granted.
I wanted to hug you, Sam, that last day I saw you, but I was afraid of embarrassing you in front of your friends. I will always regret that decision, no matter how much time passes.
A family from another country moved to a city where I work and the husband asked if he could bring us a traditional meal. He said it was common in his country when you moved to bring food to your neighbors as a way to become part of the new community and new culture.
When I was a kid way back in the 1960s it was the opposite. When someone new moved into your neighborhood, you took food to the new family as a way to welcome them. It was a common thing to make a casserole or bake a pie and go to the stranger’s house and introduce your family.
Does that still happen? I’m trying to remember when wanting to welcome someone new turned into fear of going to a stranger’s door.
Maybe in the 1970s when razor blades started appearing in Halloween candy. That was around the time kids stopped running freely and unchaperoned through their neighborhoods knocking on a stranger’s door.
Maybe when children started disappearing more frequently. That was around the time kids couldn’t stay out playing on their own until the streetlights came on to remind you to run home for dinner.
I’m sure there are a lot of places where people still take a pie to a new neighbor but I’m willing to bet that happens in rural areas. I could be wrong. Does it happen in cities when a new tenant moves into an apartment building? I like to think it does; that there are people still out there not afraid.
Yet at the same time, there are reasons to be, maybe not afraid, but certainly cautious.
When my son was little everyone in our small community knew where the kids belonged and where they were supposed to be. He could run wild with his friends because it was safe and luckily local kids can still do that. Would I have let him run around in the city? No. Though I admit it’s because I don’t know cities. Maybe there are neighborhoods where kids are safe to stay out until moths begin circling street lights.
Is it more common now to peer out behind curtains when a new person moves into the neighborhood? I hope not.
It makes me wonder how many people know the names of their neighbors. In the little community where I live I know the names of all my neighbors. I’m pretty familiar with their schedules. I wander across the street to share books or seedlings or invitations to dinner.
Yet when someone new moves in it never crosses my mind to take them food. We’ll meet eventually in our comings and goings.
I’m looking forward to trying traditional food from this new family’s country. And I think I need to return the gesture, not necessarily to resurrect a tradition but to return, briefly, to a time when we weren’t afraid of the stranger behind the door.