As a kid who moved constantly throughout childhood place is intimately related to time for me. The first time we lived in Fairfax, VA equals kindergarten and part of first grade. The second time in Fairfax equals fourth grade, but there were two moves in between the first and second time. New Zealand equals a few days shy of two years, end of form one to beginning of form three, ’88-’90, becoming a teenager, the unfulfilled hope of a first kiss. Fairfax the last time, the most significant time-from the final days of ’90 until the end of summer of ’95. Around four years and eight months. The longest I have ever lived in one dwelling.
Four years seems like a magic length of time. High school and college are four years. I’ve been thinking about the number a lot lately. We’ve lived in Syracuse for four years. T turned four a month ago. It is such a respectable chunk of time, his new age adds a solidness to his existence. The kids that started as college freshman when T was a few weeks old have graduated. Z isn’t the “new father” professor, the one who is ridiculously excited about his baby. He still might be excited about the boys, judging from what his students say when I meet them he does talk about T and C constantly. But the boys aren’t babies. We have settled into the meat of raising kids.
Our neighborhood has a couple of annual events that take place two weekends after Labor Day. There is a block party on our street the evening before the Westcott Street Cultural Fair located one street west of us. Our house is perfectly situated for both events. Poor C hadn’t taken a crap all weekend and we were waiting for him to blow on Sunday afternoon. It was fantastic to just roll out of the front door and mosey over to the fair without a diaper bag. If the kid pooped we could just whisk him home to change him and be back in the action, round trip of about 10 minutes. We dig the local stuff, dig being a part of it every year. Even me with my anxiety and agoraphobic tendencies-if I get overwhelmed I can escape to my house in an instant.
At the block party on Saturday night I watched T zoom around on his bike with his pal and C following behind. I spied one of the big girls, a cousin to the kids my two spend most of their time with, rest her hand on the bike helmet clad head of C. She seemed to be just keeping track of the large brood of younger cousins and somehow my boys got included in that calculation.
My eyes burned and filled with tears.
My boys belonged.
It was the fifth year T attended the party. He was barely a month old the first time, cuddled in our Ergo on my chest. We met a couple with a little girl a year older than him. I could not comprehend how big she was, couldn’t believe T would ever be that size. Her mom was heavily pregnant with their second, they had just moved to Syracuse as well. I remember telling Z that I really wanted to be friends with them. Two years later we ran into them at T’s preschool. She had just given birth to their third four days after C was born. Last year T was in class with their eldest. This year their baby and my baby are starting preschool together. After we dropped off our kids this morning we stood and chatted with another Mom whose youngest is in the toddler room. They both have gals who just started kindergarten and I felt so grateful to hear about their experiences because I’ll be in their shoes next year.
This is all pretty mundane stuff. We met people in our neighborhood. Over the years we developed relationships. Our kids are starting to grow up together. It might seem mundane, but man, it is a fucking revelation to me. It is extraordinary. All I wanted as a kid was to know people and be known. And here we are putting down roots in a city that it doesn’t look like we’ll be leaving anytime soon. We are part of a community. Our boys will grow up with a crew of other kids who all live within a couple of blocks of us. They will belong, hell, the already belong.
I was blinking back tears at the block party because I was happy. I had a grin on my face yesterday because it seemed like almost everyone we knew in Syracuse was at the street fair. And it turns out we know a lot of people. As the three of us Moms were having a hard talk about where to send our kids to school and how to ease the adjustment into kindergarten this morning I realized I was excited to have access to women I genuinely like to navigate the murky waters of raising these kids.
We have a support system here. We are part of a community. I am giving my kids exactly what I wanted in my youth. And you know what? I’m giving it to myself as well. In our four years of living here Z and I have found the kind of friends who will mow our lawn while we are away or fill our fridge with food and clean our house after our kid had a frightening medical scare far from home. We lucked into a school for the boys filled with teachers we trust, some of whom have also become friends.
Don’t get me wrong, life is not some utopian dream in sunny Syracuse. Do the winters mightily suck ass? Yup, oh yes, they do. We live in an urban neighborhood. For me the good outweighs the bad, but there are break ins and muggings, more than there would be in the suburbs. And Syracuse is broke. Z and I believe in public education, we want to support it by sending our kids to the local elementary. We will send T there next fall. But we worry.
And then there is the big rain cloud that isn’t local, that would follow us anywhere-my mental illness. I have days of paranoia, sure my friends actually hate me, sure the other Moms at school pity me or are laughing at me behind my back, sure I am ruining my boys because I’m an abysmal Mom, sure that Z is going to leave me and take the boys with him.
But right now the good heavily outweighs the bad. We are part of this community. Syracuse seriously rocks.
We went apple picking on Saturday.
Fifth year in a row that we’ve gone to Beak and Skiff.
C rode a pony for the first time.
My boys walking to the street fair.
The amazing puppets in the parade. It was a pretty epic weekend. All four of us were exhausted by Sunday night.