the people catty-corner behind us were a young couple with a daughter about my age. she invited me to AWANA, probably because I was the only unsaved heathen person she had ever met, and 'bring an unchurched friend' was a requirement. phew! over the next few years, me, my dad, my mom and then jenny each heard the gospel and responded to it- something that now is extraordinary to me as I know many people still praying for family members after years and years. we were just ready I guess and God brought us to the right neighborhood, the right church and the right time in our lives to realize we needed His grace.
my friendship with Megan soon became more like a sisterhood (although she ended up having more in common with my sister jenny- both math geeks and more introverted) and after several summers of climbing over the cinderblock wall between our houses, the parents (who had also become good friends) decided for their sake to take down part of the fences and have a walk through. No more climbing and jumping down 6 feet in the pitch black summer darkness, or running with hands out in front in case of spiderwebs or bugs. and no more trips around the block for our parents after evenings of card playing, croquet, and janet's amazing desserts. we just walked through the fence.
somewhere along the line, a mailbox was put up for secret letters, but it eventually gathered more dust than mail as we grew up, went off to college, then moved across the country (megan and jenny), moved home (all of us), moved again (megan) or got married (me). our parents still walked through and had those card-playing, story-telling nights, and we did too whenever we were home. when jenny got engaged, she didn't want anything other than a backyard wedding at the butler's house, being escorted by my dad through the hole in the fence. It is my favourite wedding I've ever been to, and trust me, I've been to a few.
Two years ago, spencer and i moved to memphis so i could learn to be a teacher. i've done a lot of thinking and reflecting on my childhood- partly for class and partly because i think that's what you do when you have distance and time between you and something. clarity comes through. i know that although i was not poor like many of my students, i did have some things in common with them- moving frequently, not having great extended-family relationships, busy working parents and me and jenny being home alone a lot, etc. i realize that taking down the fence was a much bigger deal for janet and greg than it was for me. it meant that they were available nearly all the time to listen to and care for a young girl whose early years of being a christian were pretty tumultuous. they were steady and sure when sometimes nothing else was. they were always there. it is a huge sacrifice, i realize now, and i don't think i'll ever really know the impact they had on my life.
last summer, my parents moved, and it is one of the hardest things that has ever happened to me. I didn't know it would hit me like it did. I always wanted to move away, but I don't think i wanted them to. janet and greg have also bought another house- on the east coast near megan - and now since jenny and michael live there too, it is just like the whole little family is changing locations. that makes me happy because i don't think i ever could be ok with my parents not being near greg and janet. they are their closest family. still, the steps to moving have each been weighty and gut-wrenching. the day the tree came down that michael and jenny were married under, the day the fence was boarded up and then a new block wall was built. the day my parents left their house- leaving behind all the little hash marks in the water-heater closet that mark how jenny and i grew through the years. i still have dreams about it sometimes, and that might be the only way i see it for a while, because when spencer and i went home last Christmas, i couldn't bring myself to even drive by it. it is strange being so attached to one place when i always wanted to roam.
i tell you that long and sentimental story to say this- i want to be that to someone someday. in small ways, i want to put a hole in the fence for my kids- not that i can live next door to them and have them over all the time. teaching is two full time jobs put together. but i want to symbolically be someone who has time for them. i want to not just show up every day for work- though consistency is really, really important- but i want to somehow find two minutes between classes to listen, and to cry or laugh with them. as i've learned this year, test scores don't go up overnight, and i may never be that rockstar teacher who can get those kinds of scores, but i want someone to have some memories someday like i do- a little glimpse of green grass between a sliver of fences- a little sneak peak of Home.