I grew up in a small town. Very Mayberryish (in a non-1950’s kind of way). Everyone knows everyone else. You can walk to the grocery store. The post office. The school. The library. You get the picture.
Despite my strong desire to leave this small town 17-years-ago, I often find myself longing to live there again. There is a closeness between the people and the geography. With a firm realization that I’m romanticizing this, it sometimes feels like a simpler, easier way of life.
But, here I am, living in Sacramento. Not a huge city by any means, but a city nonetheless. Completely urban. Margie and I made a conscious decision to stay in Sacramento. We don’t want her to commute to work from my hometown. We want her to be able to attend baseball games, take the kids to the doctor if I can’t, and simply be a part of the kids’ lives in a way that is often difficult when commuting two hours a day.
Although we’ve always had lots of friends in Sacramento, it isn’t until recently that I really felt like we were part of a place-based community. (I know that there is all sorts of community in urban settings, but it’s often spread out over many miles). Bennett started school. And it so happens that he’s attending the school within walking distance to our house. And so are other kids in the neighborhood.
I should back up here. Sacramento City Unified School District has an open enrollment policy. You can send your kid anywhere in the district–space permitting. Open enrollment is great because it allows you to send your kid to the school that you feel best suits him or her. The downside, however, is the break-up of place-based communities. Lots of kids don’t go to school with the kids down the street. Gone are the days of running down the street yelling at your mom to tell her you’re going to Tommy’s house and will be back by dinnertime. Playdates often require lots of driving and planning.
Bennett’s school site use to house our neighborhood school. It closed 2 years ago because of declining enrollment and poor test scores. No one wanted to send there kid there. It re-opened this fall as the public Waldorf school, which had been at a different location. It’s an awesome school with a wait list. We were so fortunate to get Bennett into it.
Some families who’s kids attend this school already live in the neighborhood. And now other people who’s kids attend this school, want to live in our neighborhood, as well.
Back to community and the importance and wonderful feeling that comes from place-based community. I needed to take Adelaide to the doctor this morning. He could see her at 11am–the same time Bennett started school. I called the mom of one of Bennett’s classmates. She and her family live in the neighborhood and we met them when school started in September. I dropped Bennett off at his classmate’s house and he walked to school with his friend. Following the doctor’s appointment (which took 2 hours), Adelaide fell asleep in the car. I called another friend who also lives within walking distance to the school and who’s kids attend the school. She agreed to pick Bennett up from school and let him play at her house until Adelaide woke up from her nap.
Community. Within in a one-mile radius. It’s so simple. It’s so beautiful. And I’m so very glad we have it.