community

What I never expected to find during quarantine was community.

The boys and I live in a second-floor apartment with a building on each side of ours and three additional buildings behind ours which are so close, all I can see from my office window are bricks. The courtyard between our building and the other three is mostly a sidewalk with small grassy areas on either side of it. We’ve never thought much of it.

But the parks are closed and without any of us having yards, we have started using it for anything we can. Picnics, riding bikes, hide and seek. Kids that lived feet away from each other who never knew one another are best friends now. The downstairs neighbor who used to pound on her ceiling with a broomstick when my kids danced now has chewing gum challenges with them and yesterday her son even gifted mine an old scooter.

I leave my window open to hear the shrieks of children in the courtyard. Or I sit on my balcony with a book and watch them running around, six-year-olds and two-year-olds now best friends. Age means nothing anymore, only proximity. A neighbor gave my kids homemade donuts the other day, my sons send paper airplane messages to the third grader who lives beneath us. We are becoming the terrain we share.

On Friday my kids were at their dads and I came home and was sitting down to my takeout dinner when I heard a girl across the courtyard yell, “Brandon! Holden!” so I hollered right back at her that they would be back on Monday. This apartment complex is mostly populated by divorced parents, people who don’t have help on their days with the kids and this little reprieve has given us a break from the minute-by-minute preoccupying of our kids.

Until quarantine, Brandon and I lamented living here where we constantly got noise complaints (the last one with the threat of eviction), dreamed about living in a house with a yard where no one would bother us. He tells me “chase that money!” when I go to Target. When I reminded him the other day I’m chasing the money so I can get us a house he stopped what he was doing and looked at me. “But I don’t want to move,” he said. “I’d miss my friends.”

And I didn’t tell him good because Target doesn’t pay enough for me to get a house, I didn’t tell him good because he has years here still if we aren’t getting evicted after all. I just pulled him against me, happy he knows what home feels like even here with me, in a house that isn’t his dad’s. That he can associate home with more places than one, that he can find belonging anywhere he ends up.

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