Posted on | September 10, 2012 | 11 Comments
There are a lot of things I admire/covet about my sister: her ability to let troubles roll off her back like oil on water; her imaginative and sweet-natured son and daughter; her wide expanse of a yard including an herb garden, chickens, bees, and a swing set; her attentive and engaged husband… the list goes on.
But above all else, I always envied her village.
When I moved back to Macon, I sort of assumed that the same people I knew before would remain close by, building their huts by mine and lending me sugar and salt and hugs as needed. I assumed that I could slide back into the same circles, the same surroundings, with very little interference. I assumed wrong. People, like places, bend and shift. People change their thoughts and ideas about who you are and what you are about even when only ten months go by… even when the only thing different is the shattering crack that runs the length of your body and announces “DIVORCED” to anyone who passes by.
So for the first year of my return, I muddled through alone. I siphoned myself away from the sympathetic looks and nods and offers of prayers or pats on the back. I gazed out my front door and saw nothing but a long stretch of deserted, empty plots of land where I believed “my people” would set up shop. I listened to my sister talk about her friends dropping by for evening meals, for morning runs, and for celebrations of any and every holiday and I yearned for that in my life. I ached for women I could call, spur of the moment, who would join me in sipping glasses of wine on the patio or sampling a pot of freshly made chili. I longed for that camaraderie, that instantaneous connection, that family beyond family. But, like many other things in my newly single life, it remained too far from my slight reach.
As the weeks and months passed and I grew stronger, I started to spend more time wondering how to create this village of people, how to surround myself with the loving arms of friendship that I heard tale of. And the more I thought and wondered, the more I realized that someone has to build the first house. So I stopped yearning and started building, one nail at a time, a tender home for the first of many. And as I built, as I stretched and reached to shingle the roof and paint the walls, I realized I had so much more than I ever believed possible. It started small, picnics at the park and Saturday play dates. There were a few invites to dinner here and there until the sounds of childish laughter ricocheted off the walls of my house. It started with just the slightest whisper and it is growing into a roar.
This is who I am. This is my home. And flanking me the best they can is my rag tag army, my sweet and selfless friends who respond to my call of “Chili for dinner, who is in?” Little by little I’ve realized that it isn’t about who you think you’re supposed to know or who you thought you knew, before … it’s about the people who take the time to truly know you. And so on Sunday night, I made vegetarian chili. And cornbread. And vegetarian Brunswick stew. And beef barbecue. And a key lime pie.
I issued an open invitation to the people around me: “Come join my village. Come set up shop here in this corner of the earth because you’re important to me.” Over the past year, I’ve learned that all you can do is build your village where you stand, and those who unpack their things and prop their feet up on your furniture are the only people you really wanted there in the first place.