The Power of Community

pants

When my children were five and almost-two, we moved roughly 2 miles north. We sold our sweet little townhouse in a quiet courtyard in the city and moved to a big single-family home in the nearest suburb north. For the most part, we moved so that our five-year-old could go to a school with smaller class sizes and so that she and her non-sleeping baby sister could have their own bedrooms. Too, there was a part of me that had glimpsed at the process of looking for high schools in Chicago and wanted to avoid it at all costs. We moved for ourselves, thinking only of the life within the walls of our home and the school our kids might attend.

Until then, I’d been living a mostly isolated life as a parent. In our city courtyard, there was only one precious family with identically-aged children, but those children slept like angels — long naps and early bedtimes, short windows of free playtime compatible with my daughters’ chaos. In retrospect, it was an outright blessing and not at all a small thing to have found myself hugely compatible with their mother, someone who became one of my dearest friends and a great teacher to me on topics too great to write here. Still, in those toddler/preschool years, the company we could keep was not daily, and because of my younger daughter’s constant illness in her first two years, I’d not been able to make any other friends with other families. I spent my days largely without adult contact. It was incredibly, incredibly lonely.

When we moved north, then, I didn’t expect much of my life to change. The preschool where my youngest was finally healthy enough to attend was part of a day care center, a remnant from my days of working when my oldest was my only, and so I never knew the other parents well. No one stuck around to chat long — everyone was at the beginning or end of long days, and if I saw them, it was only on the rare occasion that I brought my youngest to preschool at the very beginning of the day or picked her up at the very end. For the most part, I saw the teachers, the barista at the coffeeshop, and my husband. When I moved, I expected that to stay mostly the same.

I was wrong. Continue Reading…

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Daughter, Whole

bat-mitzvah

Several weeks ago, my triumphant, thriving, sensitive and sweet daughter Sammi read from the Torah for the first time.

In the Jewish ceremony known colloquially as a “Bat Mitzvah,” my daughter consciously took her place in her community by chanting three verses of a chapter from Leviticus. Like all children who become a Bat or Bar Mitzvah (literally, a daughter or son of the covenant), she studied for months to learn the melody and the Hebrew words she’d be chanting and all the prayers she’d need to know to share leadership of the service and analyze the chapter of Torah in English. She has a lovely, clear voice, and she spent weeks with headphones on listening to the sound of her tutor’s voice chanting her verses, and singing along. I’d heard her practicing, but nothing really prepared me for the feeling I would have on the day she became a Bat Mitzvah, as I stood next to her at the podium as she chanted in front of the congregation of our synagogue and all of the friends and family who gathered to bear witness. It was not what I expected. Continue Reading…

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Carrots Are Miracles

carrots-are-miracles

Some time during the 10th century in what is now Iran — but what was then Persia — the precursor to the modern-day carrot became a part of the human diet. It started off purple in color, and then eventually mutated and changed until it emerged as the bright orange carrot we know today. I know this because of research available on the web site of the World Carrot Museum. As best as I can tell, there is no way to visit the World Carrot Museum, which is a shame, because I would love to see it.

Carrots, to me, are the perfect combination of natural miracle and human ingenuity. Root vegetables, in general, are unlikely food sources. I am awed by the path they had to follow to make their way into our diets. At some point prior to their emergence in the diet of the 10th century Persians, someone had to discover them.  Continue Reading…

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We Just Do It

lunchschoolEvery day, parents everywhere let go of their children’s hands and put them on busses, wave goodbye to them after a morning walk, or kiss them goodbye from the front seat of the cars they drive through a long line of other parents and guardians. Parents send their children to school and into someone else’s arms.

The phrase in loco parentis is one I learned early in life, helping my father proofread the textbooks he wrote on educational administration. It is Latin for “in place of parents,” and it forms the legal standing for schools professionals to act as responsible for and in guardianship of the students in their care. On a practical level, it allows them to call an ambulance for a child who has been hurt, to administer medication with a legal guardian’s permission, and to supervise those students throughout a school day. “In place of parents” is exactly how all parents hope their children’s schools are behaving. Continue Reading…

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Ten Square Blocks of Everything

noimporta-swallow-my-sunshine

In front of my local police station, this sign in Spanish is prominent: No importa de dónde eres, estamos contents que seás nuestro vecino. It doesn’t matter where you come from, we’re glad that you are our neighbor.

I run past that sign sometimes, in the precious few months of the year when the temperatures outside are compatible with my asthma. The police station is a mile or so from home — ten blocks north — and it’s in the middle of a retail area I prefer to avoid on my runs, unless it’s very early in the morning and I won’t likely interrupt the commuters with their coffee and the college students with their hangovers. The first time I saw the sign, I thought wow, isn’t this a nice surprise? All over town, people’s Black Lives Matter signs were being mangled by anonymous angry people. A sudden outgrowth of more all-encompassing signs began to prevail:

IN THIS HOUSE, WE BELIEVE
BLACK LIVES MATTER
WOMEN’S RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS
NO HUMAN IS ILLEGAL
SCIENCE IS REAL
LOVE IS LOVE
KINDNESS IS EVERYTHING

We have that sign. It covers more ground, but not as much ground as I can cover in a ten block radius around my house. Continue Reading…

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