Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I Was Raised by the Village

I’ve always been moved by the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Probably because I was raised by the village.

I was fortunate to grow up in a neighborhood that was filled with kind people. I spent as much time or more at my neighbor’s homes than at my own. I always knew I had a warm house to go to where the lights were turned on and dinner was on the table. I was a bit of a fixture at my closest friends’ and neighbors’ homes and I’m filled with wonder that they put up with me as much as they did.

It wasn’t always like that. I have dim-lit memories of a warm house of my own filled with a family—people, activity, food. But somewhere over the course of elementary school the people left and the house got dark. Rather than stay there alone or with a sleeping alcoholic in the upstairs bedroom, I’d run off to other people’s houses.

As an adult, when I asked a friend if her parents had realized that something was wrong at my house, she said, “No one called for you. My mom had to send you home every night at 9 o’clock. She knew something was wrong, of course.” That triggered memories of running home in the dark, winding my way across the neighbor’s lawns, through their bushes and across their patios on well-worn shortcuts. I ran past other houses with yellow windows to mine, which was dark.

I’d slip in the front door and call out, “Mom?” But no one answered. I’d flip on the kitchen light, go downstairs and start turning on lights in the family room, turn on the television for more light and sound, let the dog out who was tapping on his toes. Call for the other dog who was most likely inside the next door neighbor’s house. She too was raised by the village.

Now that I’m an adult, I wonder at their generosity. I never once heard, “We’re about to eat dinner. It’s time you went home.” Instead, it was always, “Would you like to stay?”

One of my friend’s parents, also a neighbor, even took me to Croatia one summer. I mean, it’s one thing for dinner every night and sleepovers on the weekends, but who flies some lonesome straggler off to Europe with their family?

My neighbors. That’s who.

Even in high school, I remember spending a week at a friend’s house when my mom went out of town. I awoke one Sunday morning to find an Easter basket in the guest bedroom, filled with chocolate rabbits, candy and a stuffed animal. I held the basket with the morning light streaming in through the windows and cried. I’d completely forgotten it was Easter and the basket brought back memories of the baskets I’d gotten as a child.

I had been loved.

I knew what it was to be loved.

You never forget that. I think if you had it once, you keep seeking it out. Maybe that’s why I kept showing up at the neighbor’s doorsteps? Even though my mother was no longer able to provide it, I knew that love was out there. Somewhere.

Maybe just around the corner.

This post is a part of National Blog Posting Month or NaBloPoMo. Today's post is inspired by the BlogHer's NaBloPoMo Prompt, "Tell us one time that you benefitted from the kindness of strangers." 

Click here to learn more and to participate on your own blog. If you've written a NaBloPoMo post, feel free to share it in the comments here too. 




  1. I grew up at my next door neighbor's house. Once I got a bicycle I grew up at a lot of different people's houses. I wish I could say that there was an alcoholic in my house that drove me away, but it wasn't that simple. I don't really know quite how to explain what was wrong there. But it was bad. I ran to other people's homes as often as I could. And like you, I had to be told to go home or I would never leave.

    1. It's a good reminder to welcome other people's kids into our homes. I'm glad you had warm places to go too.

  2. I'm crying like a baby. Beautiful, Mandy.

    1. Aw, I didn't want to make anyone cry. I wanted it to be a feel-good story.


    2. I cry when I feel good. <--- Totally Italian...and raised by the village. :)

  3. The Easter basket part brought a tear to my eye. How fortunate you had people who cared for you and loved you like you were their own. The smallest act of kindness or love, has such a great impact to a neglected child. You never forget those that were kind to you.

  4. This is beautiful. I came back to read it again and was surprised I hadn't commented before, but I think I just walked around thinking about it...the beauty and generosity of people who gather another child into their nest rather than shut her out.

  5. I think you lived in a neighborhood of angels. Seems like you were meant to be in that house, on that street. I'm not sure neighborhoods like that existed in the suburbs of LA. But they do where we live now.

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