Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Comfort in a Village of Mothers

The Comfort in a Village of Mothers

Facebook’s On This Day feature can feel like a blessing and a curse. 

I’ve been dreading today, because last year it was my last full day with my beloved collie, Data. 

I’m lucky in that this is as complicated as Mothers Day gets for me. I have a great mom, who loves our family so much, who always jumps in to help and support, who is always enthusiastic about my endeavors, and who desperately wants my brother and I to be happy. 

The Important Parents of Schuyler Drive
Not everyone is so lucky. One of my oldest friends lost her mother on Mothers Day. I grew up eating in her mother’s kitchen, making the most awesome forts out of her old saris, and knowing that their home was always open to me, a safe haven of refuge at that end of the street. 
When I think of the street where I grew up, I don’t think of the whole street. I think of the stretch from my friend Reeta’s house to my friend Priti’s house, with my house in between.  Reeta’s mom, my mom, and Priti’s mom were the pillars which marked my passage down that small community of houses. 

Once past Priti and Reeta’s houses, was “the rest of the neighborhood,” and a little less safety. 

There were other mothers there, too. I may not have been in their house as much, but there is no doubt in my mind that Mrs. Murphy and Mrs. Ben would have been available if I fell and got banged up. Our neighbor to the left, Mrs. Meisen, was always out on her bicycle, or walking, and would invite me in for “healthy snacks.” I remember hanging out with her one night, watching a variety show, with Dolly Parton singing in spangles and sparkles. 

Across the street, the old grandma, Rose, lived in her in-law apartment. She and her husband, built like Jack Sprat and his wife, were always in residence. Her husband didn’t speak English, as I recall, and Grandma Rose was always watching her shows, and I sometimes popped in just to sit with her. I don’t even remember why.  Or, when her great-granddaughter was visiting, Jessie and I played secretary, using her tv trays, with hot cocoa in mugs that we pretended was coffee. 

I was lucky. My safe spaces were all close together. I could move between them on my own feet, mostly without any supervision—or so it seemed. Now that I’m a mother, I realize that there was supervision, because all of these mothers were looking out for me. 

My children live differently, partly because of our having moved so many times, but also because the world is a little different. We spend more times in cars. More women work outside the home. We put nearly thirty kids on the bus in the morning at our bus stop. Only about half get off the bus in the afternoon. Aftercare is a large part of kids’ lives here. 

I recently started thinking about my children’s safe spaces, and I realized they’re spread across counties and states. We’re moving to a new house in our town this summer, and I’m looking forward to it, because the kids will be able to walk to their schools and to many friends’ houses. When we went looking for the new place, I rejected several that weren’t bad at all, but weren’t close to the schools. Today, I realize I wanted to make a space for my kids like the one I had growing up on Long Island.

So, happy Mothers Day, to the women of Schuyler Drive. Thank you for being my safe space. 

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