Saturday, October 31, 2015

Different places, good and bad. Or, missing Ohio, despite the gifts of being home.

Truly, it is good to be "home".  The weather is better for me psychologically as well as physically (since my primary exercise is walking and I can do that almost year round out here).  It is good to be with family and friends I've known for years.  It is a gift to be in communities that used to mean so much to me and to find that I am still welcomed and wanted as if I had never left.  I love my new church community.  There is much that is good.

However, there is also a lot that I miss about Ohio.  The fall trees, the green, the Metroparks, the lakes, the more reasonable pace of life, the fact that people are not so mobile, stay where they are and therefore tend to be more connected.  There are many people I miss deeply.

But the truth is that this evening, Halloween, I missed Ohio more deeply and fully than I yet have. Halloween in our neighborhood in Ohio was an amazing community event.  Despite the cold (often well below freezing on this Hallowed Eve's night), our neighbors would often be outside with their portable fire pits, sitting in their driveways, wrapped up near these blazing fires, handing out candy to the parade of kids who walked by.  Houses were decorated, Halloween was restricted to a two hour window, and there were only a few neighborhood houses that did not participate.  We got to know our neighbors on Halloween, and my kids would be greeted by name at the different houses, as well as by many of the other kids from their schools whom they knew and would pass by or walk around with, talking animatedly the whole way about their costumes and candy and Halloween traditions. Some houses would hand out treats (popcorn, etc) for the adults as well.  I loved Halloween in Ohio. I loved dressing up myself, but mostly, I loved the amazing community event that was Halloween.  I didn't like the cold, I'll grant you that, but the evening was a wonderful way to celebrate neighborhood.

In contrast, tonight it was a balmy 70 degrees outside - wonderful weather to be outside, sitting, talking, visiting with folk.  We live in a very nice neighborhood, "one of the best" in our area, we've been told again and again.  And yet, as we headed out the door I saw what I had remembered from when I lived in the Bay Area before, that instead of it being the rare house that had its lights OFF, it was a very rare house that had its lights ON.  We live on a court that has about 20 houses.  Three of them had their lights on.  We walked to a nearby court.  Same thing.  We did not see any other kids outside until the end when we saw one other family walk by.  One.  Family.  This was not a community event.  This was a "turn off the lights and hide from the beggars" evening.  And I found my heart aching.  Aching for those neighborhood connections, aching for that kind of community, aching for the warmth and connections and celebration of childhood that Halloween could be and is in other places.

My kids had worked hard on their costumes, putting them together from things we had around the house. (We don't tend to buy costumes.  I want them to be creative). They'd worked on them for weeks, preparing for this evening.  They were excited and talked about nothing else all day.  But I found all of us came back from trick or treating quiet, cranky, disappointed.  They don't care about the candy.  We actually have a "candy fairy" who offers them a present in exchange for their candy if they so choose - a choice they always make because they have inherited from their mom a lack of enthusiasm for sweet things (chocolate excepted, of course!).  It isn't the candy.  It's the community and the creativity of costumes that they look forward to.  But only a few people saw their costumes, and they saw none others except this one family with their two little kids in store-bought Cinderella and Star Wars costumes.  We came back quiet.  And missing our neighborhood in Ohio.

I believe we need to be the world we want.  So I have a year to figure out now how to recreate community around Halloween for my kids.  Maybe we will have a party for their friends.  Maybe we will host something at church.  I don't know yet.  I do know that it was a gift to have those Halloween experiences in Ohio.  And that missing that this year reminds me how important community events really are.  For tonight, we are quiet.  And tomorrow I will start to dream bigger.  Next year we will create community.  And we will plan better, knowing that things here are different.  Communities have different gifts and different challenges.  There have been many gifts in moving back.  But tonight we remembered one of the challenges.  Ohio community, don't change.  Keep being what you are because you have no idea what a gift that is.  California community, we have some work to do. But together, I think we can create something beautiful here as well.  To all communities, we have gifts and challenges.  Other communities have things to teach us, and with experiences other places, we can learn and grow as well.  That is a gift.  Thanks be to God.