“It takes a village.”
I have heard this time and time again, usually from my mother and usually when I was stranded on the side of the road because she had once again forgotten to pick me up. Don’t worry, we all laugh about this now and it only happened once or twice or ten or twelve (okay, Grandma stranding me made it twenty tops). Even then my family members would chuckle enormous belly laughs at the thought of my sister and me patiently (a term I would use lightly) waiting at our extra curricular activities or mandatory school ending on someone (anyone at this point) to roll in on two wheels to pick us up.
Well, if it was not for my “village” I am sure, oh so sure, I would have been stranded countless other times. I have numerous “mommas,” “grandmas,” “aunts,” and “uncles,” who are not related by blood, but are just as much a part of my life than the ones who were legally deemed mine the day I was born. I was blessed by the most wonderful family and was also given the most wonderful village as well to help rear me into the person I am today.
I live in a very rural community of mostly farmland and a little country store called “The Filing Station.” Their slogan is to come in hungry and they will fill you up. You must drive three miles to reach a Dollar Store, post office, bank etc. The three miles of driving allows you to enter the huge town of Deep Run. Since our homes are a little isolated from the “city of Deep Run,” my dad found it amusing to call our little area, “Shallow Walk.” Well, he tries to be a funny man! The name has stuck and so my village is “Shallow Walk.” There are only five or so houses in the village of Shallow Walk, but these houses are the ones I call home and the people inside are the ones I refer to as family. I didn’t realize as a small child that all these people were not related to me because it was always aunt and uncle and sister or brother in each house. If I needed milk, eggs or cookies, or shoes, jewelry or dresses, I would roam from house to house until I hit on the right stuff. If I misbehaved in front of any of these eyes, my punishment came from the one who saw me. I wasn’t reported on back to my parent -- I was punished immediately in that household. My mom thought this was great. She was totally on board with the whole concept because she truly believed it took a village to raise a child! Thank goodness my parents did believe this because the people within this village are truly some of the most influential and admirable people I have ever met. Through the years, friends have become family and as the family expanded, these “framily” (see what I did there) members have journeyed through some of life’s lowest valleys and rejoiced with us through some of life’s highest peaks. Their constant support and love is something I truly can never fathom or express in a sufficient way. Whether it be making Christmas cookies, going to get pedicures, borrowing milk, or just long phone calls or talks to ensure I am handling life okay, I am truly grateful and love you so much for all that you have done and continue to do for me.
As time passes, some of us have grown up and moved a little farther away to bigger cities for jobs, school, and life in general. Also, some of the oldest and dearest of Shallow Walk have passed on and we have mourned them together as family and leaned on each other for support to struggle through to make it to the next day. We have suffered our losses, defeats, regrets, wins, and blessings all as one. We have fought together, hurt together, lost together, loved together and grown together. Shallow Walk is not a huge area, but I have found there is always enough space for those who move away to come back home and raise our children by the village hands who have so lovingly raised us.
Growing up, I guess I knew I was blessed, but I never realized how immeasurably blessed I am until recently. You cannot choose your family; that I cannot dispute, but what I can dispute is the fact you choose your friends. I believe these individuals are placed within your life in order to help you soar through whatever obstacles are placed in your way. Some appear just when you need them and some have been there all along. At your darkest moments, you immediately determine who your family is. They are the ones who will stay up late at night talking about nothing in order to distract you from whatever you want to escape. They are the ones who force you to focus when you feel like quitting. They are the ones who make you laugh until you cry or laugh at you until you cry at times (in cases where you are stranded). The meaning of family goes deeper than blood and I am so blessed I am able to experience this and have from the day I entered this world. So to Shallow Walk (you know who you are): thanks for being my village.