The Village

family story

Relax – that’s what I know my job is now, that’s the message I get when I check in. This is not an easy task for me, my guts get stirred up regularly. Not just a light churning, but a deep one touching the parts below the parts you thought were the deepest parts of you. This is the kind of stirring up that feels like someone is grabbing roots from your belly and jerking hard. I’ve learned to appreciate those shake-sessions, I’m clearing out old stuff I’ve been trying to get at for years. Hope fills the space left behind.

Terry is at home, and continuing the work she started at the clinic down in Tijuana. I’ve shared so much of her story its starting to work against her. She’s asking for fewer updates, less public-ness, it only makes sense. She needs her time, her space. I’ll only say our children feel complete again now that she is home. They immerse themselves in her aura, her feeling. She must be studied, rolled around in, smelled and snuggled. I don’t think True has nibbled on her too much (she’s a bit of a biter), although yesterday we all went to watch Tadgs school play “The Jungle Book” and she could not stop chewing on Mamma. Epic family evening. Epic.

I’m not going to write about cancer now, I’ve learned a lot, I know there is much more for me to learn on this path we’re on. I am in no rush today, this post will not really serve as an update on the cancer front. I want to write about something that’s somewhat related: the village holding my kids right now.

Its not that I’m not there to hold them every night and day – Tadg was sick for over a week and a half – lots of holding going on there by both Terry and I, True always gets special TLC (gimmie those huggies!) Thats the given in their lives, I’m the one-to-take-for-granted right now, and thats just as it should be. Its not that Grandmothers and Aunts and Uncles and cousins and friends and new friends haven’t shown up to regurlarly knock play-days out of the park – that has been off-the-hook wonderful. I’m talking about that bigger container they’ve both had from very young that nourishes them, builds them in ways parents can’t.

I’m not going to go into detail about the many, many visible ways that Santa Cruz Montessori (SCMS) has stepped up to help us: extra care always whenever we need it, financial aid consideration, food from families (THANK YOU RICH) and Angela’s Teen Kitchen (YEAY!!), the extra attention teachers are paying to True and Tadg, the checkins with Terry and I. These are all wonderful things I think many schools would do for families on journey we’re on.

Its the effortless ways they hold them, that they have been holding them from day one I need to talk about now. That food has been building the bones of their spirits for years. It makes in them a steadiness, a fullness that I know I can rely on now. It doesn’t mean there wont be fear, stress and tears. It means that I know I’ll be able to return to them and find a heart there, whole, deep, and ready to be filled with life regardless of what’s going on.

There is so much more though, lets start with “the feeling.” I know lucky parents treasure what I’m talking about, though maybe not consciously. It usually happens when I’m walking one of them down to class. We step through the gate, head down through pockets of activity, and a little space starts to open up between us.

Hmm, she really doesn’t need me that much right now. Next, the child – could be either one – might stand a little taller. Maybe the shoulders roll back a bit and the eyes brighten. They have arrived at their second home, and its always a good day to be here. They might call out to someone, could be an older or younger student, even a teacher or administrator – just to check in. There is always familial recognition of one kind or another. Of course they belong here, they are part of what makes this place what it is.

Thats when the feeling first hits, that unique serenity that comes from knowing they are well cared for by every aspect of this amazing village that coalesces magically 5 days a week from 8-4. Your children belong here and they know it. You can relax, they will be here, safe while you go out to deal with whatever the world is going to throw at you today. In fact they’ll be fed in ways here you probably can’t feed them at home, so good job Dad for getting them in the car and here with cloths on and food in their bellies.

They arrive with an expectation of their village being there for them every day and they are never disappointed. It doesn’t matter which adult they talk to, if they work at the school then they are part of the village. Many of the parents function as that too, creating friendships with kids somehow in their orbit. “Wow – saweeet new shoes!” Somehow everything fits together, around them, every day, without fail.

And it started on the first day years ago, when at 18 months old they opened a tiny classroom door too small for any adult to walk through. This was not just any place, this was a place made just for them, filled with moments just for them. There are foods my daughter, years later, prefers because they are “Marika” foods, provided by one of her first teachers. Tadg is still bonded with his first teacher there, Miss Katey who left not too long ago to start a new Montessori school in China. When she visits, Tadg greets her as a part of his village who will always be connected, no matter where in the world she is.

Did you know my older son visits his young sister in her class from time to time? Of course because family belongs here.

Each day, every teacher and staff person stitches this village together with mindful acts of kinship. “Yes I’ll help you do this, because we are part of something together, you and I both belong here.” When my wife first faced her health crisis I knew my kids would be OK so long as I could keep them in their village, with their elders to watch over them. They can never replace a family (extended and immediate), what happens at home is paramount. But for now they are the lion’s share of the community holding the kids while this all unfolds.

What a blessing.

Imagine dropping your kids off every day for something you knew would not only bring them joy but would help them discover their potential not just as a student, but as a human being. This little girl who arrived in your arms at six days old trembling like a leaf, gets to celebrate life, learning and her own unique spirit, growing stronger and more joyful than any little girl you’ve known. Your son who excels at some subjects and struggles with others knows that all of the teachers who have touched his life genuinely love him, appreciate him for who he is, and will be there for him in any way they can.

Last night Terry, True and I watched Tadg perform three parts in The Jungle Book. It was wonderful, whacky and beautifully imperfect in only the way a kids school play can be. It felt very different from my own experiences of performing as a child, so much more connected, a celebration of play. Afterwards True spotted one of her favorite friends (Ikey) and they took off for the playground. Ever lose a four year old in a crowd of people and not freak out? I’m the guy who freaks out, calls the national guard, starts screaming his kids name at the top of his lungs. Last night, not a peep.

I knew she’d be fine, she was with her village.



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