Jan 08 2013
A Little Time May Go A Long Way
Perhaps it was turning another year older yesterday on my birthday or maybe it’s just that we’re all thinking more about how much we value our family and friends after what happened last month in CT–but I’m thinking a lot these days about how families support one another. Often times without knowing it, the little ways in which we interact have a big impact. I see it here at school. The ways in which teachers and administrators and support staff will make an extra call to check in on someone that’s in need or do a fund drive on a casual Friday for one of our families or just spend an extra few minutes listening to a student who’s in trouble or staying after school.
When I was a kid, I grew up in a small coal mining town–you know the type, Oak Street followed by Maple Street followed by Pine Street with alleys in between, a little store, a fire hall and the elementary school. The coal mine was at the bottom of the hill and just about everyone’s father worked there. You could walk around the whole town in 20 minutes.
My very best friend lived across the alley from my house. I was on Oak Street and she was on Maple Street. I practically lived at her house. It was so different from my own home which had a working father, a working mother, me and my little brother (who I wanted to strangle 99% of the time). Monica had sisters! She lived in a two bedroom house with her dad and brother sharing one bedroom, while she and her sisters Mickey, Ilona, Darice, and Corinne shared four bunk beds with her. And at least one or two nights of the week, the neighbor kid, Kimmy, spent the night too. Why they allowed me to stay over so often in a home already crowded with siblings, I’ve no idea. But I’m grateful that they did so. I had a sense of family there that was different than my own and I found them to be fascinating.
If Monica and I had a fight, as adolescent girls often did, I felt no judgment. They didn’t get involved. They just waited for us to work it out. As my own mother did. They let us be kids, to make snacks in the middle of the night and sleep out on the porch and watch terrifying movies. And the older sisters were role models to me. Ilona was a middle school English teacher at our school, Darice taught me how to drive, and Corinne was a little sister to me.
And then there was Mickey, the oldest sister who was a nurse. She was so glamorous to my young eyes. Working different shifts, helping people in ways I couldn’t imagine, and DATING! I watched the older girls come and go as they went to work, dated, fell in love and got married. It gave me a sense of what life would bring some day. I learned by watching and I’m sure I was just the kid from across the alley to them–never giving a thought to the impact they were having on me. Where my parents seemed so strict and unyielding, they listened and understood. When my father forbid me to go somewhere, I went to their house which was always allowed. I’m so grateful for the time that they gave me.
As Mickey nears retirement, I want them to know how very much I appreciate every trip to Vince’s pizza, every time they carted me along to one of their apartments as they began to move out on their own, and every way in which they included me in their family. Monica was a best friend through my growing up years, as solid and true as a friend could be. I was the older of the two of us and so I left first, followed by my family moving away. As these things sometimes go, we lost touch after that as we went off to college and changed–evolving into different people as adults. But I’ve never forgotten the Tresco girls and all that they taught me about changing from a girl to a young woman.
As we interact with the young people in our own communities, as we allow our children’s friends to spend one more night or stay for dinner yet again—realize what a big difference you may actually be making in the kid’s life. Without even knowing it. Families aren’t just the ones we’re born into, they’re the friends we hold dear too.