Thursday, June 28, 2012

on community.

via here.
the spark for this post happened in italy, but the seed was planted a few months back when i saw some comment on a random site. in the tiny town we stayed in on our trip, we saw quite a few babies during the day, most of whom were with their grandparents, or what i assumed to be their grandparents. often when i go abroad i like to compare and contrast the culture i see to the culture i live in. not the country i visit or america. nyc is not representative of america. nashville wasn't, philly wasn't. we are a big and hugely diverse country. and sestri levante doesn't represent italy. but still. the differences are there. when i walk around nyc, a majority of the babies are looked after by nannies throughout the day and, of course, a few stay at home moms. and i see so many nannies, and i saw so many grandparents, that the difference was very striking, at least to me. and it made me wonder - is it that italians live closer to their parents - moving back home or moving their parents to them? is it that italians have babies later in life, when their parents are completely retired and can help around the house? is it that nannies in italy are just, in fact, really really old people?
the sense and definition of community is quite different all over the world. and as i thought about this i remembered that comment i read - a family who, along with a couple of neighbors, shared dinner duties during the week. they would go over to one another's home - one got monday, one got tuesday, one got wednesday - and all the families had dinner together. and usually when one hosted they had enough leftovers to heat up on thursday. and i think it didn't just save time, it built a community, which is something that really appeals to me. the sharing of responsibilities by like-minded members in your area could have immeasurable benefits. and that's when it hit me: i realized i was part of a virtual one. the blogging community is full of help - sharing recipes or how to style a leopard-print belt, sharing birth stories or how to perfect a job search, how to make your own detergent, how to give yourself a facial, what to wear on a job interview, where to go and what to eat when you travel to a new place. the amount of information and advice and sharing that goes on in the blogging community is exactly what i'm talking about. while mostly supportive there are, naturally, a few disagreements or snide remarks, but they pale in comparison to the good that's come out of this. so i wonder what it would be like if we all lived around each other? would it be so easy to share our tips and open up our lives? would we still realize these amazing benefits?
my friend's husband, who went to grad school with us, has a vision he shares with his other guy friends from school. it's called: "cul de sec". (i swear y'all. they are men and this is what they want in life). the cul de sac is a neighborhood where they all move back to in nashville and live next door to one another. married, single, kids, no kids - they don't care. they just want to live around each other. and of course i can see why. the awkward barriers of "would this person and i actually get along well enough to make this work" are down. they can ask for help and give help when needed. while we laugh at the "cul de sac", we also get it. because we want it too. my last year of grad school i lived a few floors above my friend - we cooked for one another, dropped in one another, borrowed sugar or an emergency safety pin. i know that proximity matters. the cul de sac makes sense that way - even if a friend lives a few streets over, it can seem exhausting at the end of the day to add in that extra time to go to and from their house. so our neighbors - the people right next to us and across the street - they're really the ones to build this community with.
so we'll see. now that i know this is something that interests me, hopefully i can make it a reality. what about you? do you ever think about the type of place you'd like to live in and a community to be a part of?

8 comments:

  1. Yes, I would love to be a part of a community. In my parents' culture, family all ends up living together in what turns into a huge compound. There's plenty of drama that comes out of it, of course, but also a lot of love and never the feeling of being alone. My friends and I always joke about having a "Friends" type arrangement or even living in a senior citizens' "dorm" when we're older so I guess we're not so far off from your cul-de-sac idea

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    1. a big family is a sure fire way to get this. I feel like so many people want something like the "cul de sac" yet when we move to new neighborhoods we do little to reach out to those around us. always reminds me of: "to have a friend you have to be a friend." hopefully I can start embracing that more with my neighbors.

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  2. my community is my family. i live a mile from my parents and my sister lives a mile from me. my brother lives upstairs at my parent's. i did this for all the reasons you just described. someone to meet the furniture delivery guy, some place to eat dinner if you're alone for the night, someone to give you a ride if you don't want to take two cars and hopefully a grandma to watch our kids someday an cousins to be close by and to play with. i love my family and our little community. i don't know where i'd be with out it! p.s. i love the cul de sac idea.

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    1. yeah - family is the definition of community in that sense. you are so lucky!

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  3. Every time we go to Italy, we always notice their sense of community and family and their tremendous respect for their elders. I've got such a tiny family so I really long for the closeness of a community. I know this is not going to happen in while I am living in London but it is the kind of thing I work towards every day. Ever since I was little we have lived in a cul de sac complete with neighbourhood bbqs and borrowing endless cups of sugar (I really miss it). We even had a chicken pox party!

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    1. a chicken pox party - love it! and you know - maybe it's because i'm living in an apartment building where few people are married/have kids which creates a life where you have no real schedule, so you rarely can do something like "have dinner every saturday", but i agree - i'd like to strive towards this one day.

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  4. It's interesting you picked up on that while in Italy because I remember noticing the same thing. I talked to The Boyfriend about it (he lived in Italy for 3 years and he has extended cousins that are still there). He said that most adults live with or near their parents until they get married. Then, later in life when the parents retire, they live with their married children so they can help take care of the grandchildren. He said this is standard is most regions of Italy, especially the smaller towns. A perfect example of this is one of his cousins - he's 40 and lived with his parents until he married a few years ago. Now his parents live with the older sister and her two sons. They even modified their house to make a separate apartment area for them! That type of culture is rarely seen in the US, especially since our generation moves all over the place.

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    1. that's something i thought too - in a widespread country with bustling economies in the north, south, west, and parts of the midwest, we move around a lot. a lot more than people in other countries. and perhaps that's why it's up to us to take some initiative. or move out parents into the little apartment we made for them out back!

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