Brick by Brick
At first we had the playground all to ourselves. My toddler son ran energetically from slide to swing, from swing to duck pond. Until two older girls--maybe five or six years old--arrived with their grandmother. They caught a grasshopper and began a quest to see if he would hop or slide down the slide much to my son's delight. He watched shyly from a distance, turning to me to say "Hopper!" And then he did something braver than I usually do. His little toddler legs carried him over to both girls, looked up with a quiet smile and said, "Hi."
They didn't answer or acknowledge him--too caught up in their own world. And he forgot all about it as I walked him over to say hi to the ducks in the pond instead. But as we were driving home, I began thinking about his little life, about our little world.
We spend so much time playing in the sand in the back yard. So much time racing trains and cars around makeshift tracks on the living room floor. We spend so much time driving to and fro in the car. So much time at parks and playgrounds--near others, but not with them. We spend so much time alone.
And though I am an introvert, I miss my community. I miss my small town. I miss going to the grocery store and running into five people I knew. I miss taking farm fresh eggs as a payment for my yoga classes. I miss conversations with my Mama on my Grandmother's back porch on later summer afternoons as we all snapped beans from her garden. I miss walks in the high desert sage and pinions with my friends. I miss the web of students and parents and friends and familiar faces of the town I grew up in and then returned to because I was hired as a teacher there. I miss the small church that had begun to feel like home on Sunday mornings. I miss my small town, my village. The one my son has never known, and likely never will now that my parents are moving away to be closer to my sister and better medical care for when they retire.
My heart aches for my little boy, watching friendships and life take place around him, but unable to break through the invisible walls that both surround and connect those who already are friends. That same wall surrounds us mothers too. And if I look deeper, I find a similar wall I've built around myself as well. Brick by brick I've built a world that seems safe, that I can depend and rely on. It may be monotonous, but it will not make me sick or worried or heart broken.
It's quite possible that at the playground other moms have met my quick glance with and inviting look in their eyes that I've chosen to ignore. It seems completely true that I've glanced warmly at a mom who chose her phone over my feeble attempt to start a conversation about our kids. Maybe we both (maybe many of us?) are too caught up in our own ideals--believing we can only befriend other moms who look or act like us or choose organic, cloth diapering, and sleep training schedules like we do. Maybe we are so busy we barely notice anything but the work emails we sift through interrupted by calls for attention from our own child, and not realizing that life might be easier with a village, with a community of mothers to give time when we need it most. Maybe we have been brave and reached out before to be met with a blank stare or the back of a smart phone and made a silent vow to not reach out again. Maybe we notice what makes us different more than what connects us---the love that we have for our children. Maybe that love might be the thing that we need to return to the village that so many of us long for on the loneliest of days.
Because Mama, if you like me, are sometimes lonely, you and I have a choice. We can continue on within the four walls of our houses and on the four wheels of our cars. We can, or....We can watch with loving eyes and offer an hand when another Mama's are full at the grocery store. We can say hello at the playground. We might even be brave enough to exchange numbers or make plans to meet again. We can acknowledge the grandmother who brings her grandchildren to the playground and note that though age separates us now, we both are mothers and she likely has wisdom that extra years provide. We can reach out to new, first time expectant mothers at the OB office--with stories of hope (instead of birth trauma) or offers of baby items we have kept and no longer need. We can slowly reach out, action by action, word by word and break down the invisible walls that divide us. We can create the community we crave. We can give our children the villages that seem lost for the sake of suburban safety--even in these times, maybe even because at this time, we all need more community in our lives every day.