The summer of 1984 was a significant turning point in my life. “We’ll be moving to a new state.”I can remember sitting at our small kitchen table, confused and a little surprised. It was a pleasant evening. I think we were sitting around the kitchen table together, which was not a usual occurrence.
“What about Jill?”, my best friend at the time. After being told I wasn’t invited to another classmates birthday party because I was black, she still played with me. Even though I ‘was black’, at least she and a few others remained my friends.
Our move was strange. We lived in a hotel for several months, past the start of the new school year. I remember eating fruit loops and cereal, my mother keeping the milk fresh by refilling the ice bucket. Every morning we would drive to our temporary school listening to ‘If this is it’ by Huey Lewis and the News. We visited our new house, a wooden skeleton of framed rooms being built while we waited in the town nearby.
My brother and I attended several schools within a two year period of time, and the one consistency was change. Elementary school was a blur, ever-changing faces and making new friends at school and in our new town. Television became an escape and I lived for junk food, eating my way through boredom. As an adult I realize I was unsettled for a long time after our move to Connecticut, never really feeling connected to any one place.
As we began planning for our children, I wanted their experience to be different. I wanted them to be part of a community. Selfishly, I hope my children build life long relationships and connect to their home town. I want them to look forward to ‘leaving one day’.
We remain in Connecticut to be close to our families and my kids benefit from a very predictable and full life. If we had to leave, life happens as it did for my parents, we would. However, if we don’t make any changes in their life, I will be content.
We consciously expose our children to new places and plan trips into ‘the city’ to ensure they have a balanced impression of life. We purposely live in an economically and culturally diverse community. We want them to not just ‘know’ about difference, we want them to live with difference.
I am writing my blog waiting outside karate class at the local YMCA. I can’t help but overhear a business manager talking on the phone to his staff alternating between English and Spanish. I just finished talking to a three year old and her mother as she makes her way to dance class, her hair braided as my Mom used to braid mine. Down the hall I wave to the father of one of my son’s friends. I often see long-time friends, people who have grown up in town, catch up about local politics and who has retired. In these moments I’m glad we made the decisions we have. Our kids have a community, a place, and a hometown. In many ways, I feel like I have one too!