Sunday, July 24, 2011

A love letter to my community

There I was this afternoon, sitting with my daughters in the front row of the Oak Park River Forest High School theatre for the final production of "Annie." The orphans on stage and orchestra members in the pit below were belting out "It's a Hard Knock Life," and tears were pouring down my cheeks.

I was overcome, not by the sad lives of Depression-era orphans in New York City, but by how much eye-popping talent surrounds my children and how much I love the community in which we are raising them.
2011-07-23 18.27.36
Yesterday was our annual summer block party. It was a more laid-back affair than in years' past because the self-proclaimed block captain was on vacation. At her request, I organized the dinner, and it was a success, with 6 banquet tables full of people chowing down on hamburgers, mini Vienna Beef hot dogs and a smorgasbord of side dishes.

The kids ran free, playing with their neighborhood friends from 2 until I finally hustled them home and hosed them off in the backyard around 8. And you know what they were doing when I finally located them and took them home? They were in a neighbor's basement. A was playing with one of her best friends and Z was playing hand clap games with a circle of 8th graders, one of whom is a regular babysitter of ours. It warms my heart to know that in a world of Facebook bullies and girls growing up too fast, my kids are getting exposed to good-hearted, multi-talented teenagers they can look up to and adults who immediately rallied to find a missing Dad.

2011-07-23 18.27.55
After "Annie," we drove straight to another neighbor's house. Unfortunately this family is moving west, but they were hosting one last party in their beautiful home. One more opportunity to gather friends and neighbors for stories, laughter and wine. Another last chance to watch our children race around in loose packs, roughly divided by age and gender, but with a lot of overlap. While A and her BFF were inseparable (and looking remarkably like twins with their wavy brown hair, brown eyes and tanned skin), wild-haired Z was off playing ball in the alley with a group of boys.

I was fortunate to have the worldly upbringing of a Foreign Service child, but in many ways I feel like my children are luckier. They are growing up in tight-knit community where they run into classmates at the library, fellow gymnasts at the park, neighbors at the pool, and our family doctor at the farmers' market. My childhood was one of intermittent loneliness and feeling left out, and while I know that friendships will wax and wane and school yard drama is probably in their not-so-distant future, so far my girls feel like great friends live around every single corner.
2011-07-21 18.04.57
I'm cheating here--this was actually Thursday night