Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Seeking Home

At the conclusion of the Parent Leadership Training Institute, the twenty-one members of our class made short speeches, describing their experiences in the program. I won’t attempt to paraphrase or to speak for those who so eloquently told their own stories to our class; many are far more inspiring than my own. Since several members of the class have asked me to share the text of my speech with them, I’ve decided to post it here. This is what I said to my colleagues on the final night of class:

When we first moved here two years ago, I didn’t want to meet the neighbors. I didn’t much care what kind of house we ended up in. I didn’t make an effort to seek out community. You see, we’re on our sixth house in just twelve years of marriage (and that’s not counting temporary rentals, which puts our total residences up around twelve). We’ve owned at least one house in every time zone in the contiguous U.S. The longest we’ve stayed in any house is just under three years. In our last house, in Omaha, we stayed only ten months. By the time my daughter was five, she had lived in six different residences—four houses and two apartments—in four different cities. And coming here was just another move in an endless series of relocations. I never wanted to move here, to New England, a part of the country I had never even set foot in before, but this was where was the job was. And so grudgingly, I came.

This is not an easy town to move to, people told me. If you weren’t born here, you’ll never fit in. You can live here twenty years and still be considered a newcomer, an outsider. When locals made comments like these, I thought: it doesn’t matter; we aren’t staying anyway. I could see that New England roots went deep, and we were rootless. But after so many moves, it was easier not to make attachments, not to get involved, not to become rooted. It was easier because it would be easier to leave. But why, I finally asked myself, was I taking the easier course?

So I signed up for PLTI. And I don’t know for sure how many of you are natives, how many of you have deep roots in this place, because in PLTI that never mattered. We came together here because we all wanted to help our communities and to help our children. We came together here because we are all seeking something, a way to have an impact, a way to be present. We are here because we don’t want to do what’s easier; we want to do what should be done. And if I have learned anything in PLTI, it is this: there is work that needs to be done right here. And home is where we I am today, right now, at this moment.

The week before last, I went to a meeting of a book group at the Family Resource Center where I met a woman who recently relocated here from Kansas, two immigrants from Colombia, and a grandmother who is raising her granddaughter. After the meeting, I talked to Deborah Zipkin, who is not a native either, and I commented about how so many of the locals have deep roots with extended family networks and don’t seem to need new people in their lives.

“We’re your people,” Deb said.

And at that moment, my community project was born.

I don’t know how long we’ll be here. I don’t know where we’ll be in two years or five. But while we’re here, I want to really be here. Thank you all for being my people for these twenty weeks. I am glad to be here, now, today. Tonight, I am glad to be home.

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