Community Piece

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Community Piece 

Lisa Cohen

 

For me, I have multiple homes but only one that makes me feel like I’m a part of something bigger – a community. Home, in my life, is wherever my family is and my home is also where I go to school. My family home is split up between my dad’s house and my mom’s apartment. To me both places are home, but neither is what I would call my community.

My dad and brother live in a house with three cats on a main road where people drive by going 55 without a second glance. My friends often pass by my house several times before they realize its existence and pull into the driveway to see me. My dad also lives on the county line and town line so we belong in the middle of confusion. Our mail address says one town while we pay our bills and belong to another. There is a church across the street and a bar, but to me it’s no community. We only have one neighbor but in this town neighbors are strangers. Nobody knows anybody and there is no central place where people go and meet.

My mom’s apartment feels more a part of a community, but it’s just not my own. There are bunches of people living in attached complexes and my mom’s is one of them. You walk into your building, which is shared, you say hello to your neighbors or maybe sometimes you avoid them. The drunken man who lives downstairs is always walking around shirtless. He hit on both my mother and I in the same day. He hugged me on my birthday, while we are just complete strangers.

Lisa Happy Birthday – would you like to come in and watch a movie?

No thank you.

You know who you look like??? That girl on television – Lindsay Lohan

………………………………………………………………………………………………

I think I have to go now….my mom’s calling me.

So, minus the creepers I think this place is great for my mom. It’s a place where she won’t have to feel alone. We go for a walk and run into a family, a couple of kids, or a woman walking her dog. It’s easier here to meet people and to feel like part of a community. You are not alone. The apartment is still new to me though and because I don’t get to stay with my mom often this is only her community not mine.

Since I live most of my time in Potsdam – this has become my main home and what I consider as my community. Since I was little I came upstate to visit with my extended family that lived in the town over. We would drive into the town of Potsdam for breakfast or dinner at (what was then a popular restaurant) Ponderosa. The workers there would know us by name and they loved and took extra care of my grandma, who was very ill at the time. Afterwards our parents would shop at Giant Tiger while my cousins and I ran around the store looking for hiding places and toys. We kept going into town for years until my grandma died and we brought my grandpa downstate to live with us.

I decided, when choosing a college, to follow my brother and come back upstate to attend SUNY Potsdam. I started calling this place home my second week of freshmen year. I was walking around town with my newly acquired best friend when we got tired and I said, “let’s go home.” I think I fell in love with the town then – the moment I realized it had sidewalks. It’s the small things in life that make a person happy and for me the answer is sidewalks. I always grew up in houses apart from people and society. I could never walk into town and pick up milk or go to the bookstore. Potsdam provided me a freedom that I always had wanted – the simple choice to go for a walk. So I did, my entire first year attending college I walked with my friend everywhere. On the weekend we would head into town and walk all the way to the end as far as we could go. Sometimes we would stop at the grocery store and pick up food or go to the store and buy nothing at all just because we could. We discovered the town of Potsdam as our own and found roads that lead to haunting graveyards, farmhouses and endless empty fields.

I’ve always found it fascinating to be part of a town – a community. I ravish in saying I live here and this is my home. In November of last year I moved into an apartment attached to a house in town. 82 1/2 Elm Street. I lived there with my best friend from November to July of this year. Almost every day I went for a walk or I sat outside on a railing just taking in the town. My town full of people and sidewalks. Places that are mine.

The apartment on Elm Street furthered to introduce me to the community and my town in Potsdam. Now I had neighbors, people of my own I could talk to or go out of my way to avoid. Some of the boys living in the house – they would stay up all night partying. I would fall asleep listening to the same beat replayed over and over. Then every morning I would wake up to a stray cat meowing at my door. He was hungry and cold and if I opened the door Romeo would dash inside rubbing against the side of my leg. When we were hungry, my friend and I would walk down the street to the co-op and buy fresh bread for our meals of pasta. Sometimes our adopted cat would lay at the end of the bed as we fell asleep eating pasta and watching TV. We passed a lot of our time this way living and loving.

As winter came I trudged through the unpaved streets searching for my sidewalks buried in sheets of ice and snow. I learned when the mailman came and I would notice when the runners went out with their dogs. In December I bought a Christmas tree with lights and a beautiful stand. I put it in the corner of our living room near the window, incase our neighbors wanted to see. At the same time I was decorating, all around the town began to put up lights of their own. The concert hall at Crane put on its annual holiday music performance and the community came together to listen. The months went on in this bliss and then slowly the snow began to drift away.

When spring ended with students going home for summer break I decided to prolong my own stay till the end of summer. I signed up for three summer classes to provide as an excuse to remain a bit longer in this town I loved. I knew I loved this town and called it home but it wasn’t until summer it truly became my community. Even without all the college kids running around, this place was great to me. Now I could again walk along my recovered sidewalks to class. Afterwards I would head over with my friend to the middle school and sit on the swings or lay down in a field of dandelions. We would listen to the kids running around on the playground and pass the hours watching clouds dance by. Towards the end of the summer the town hosted a summer festival. The streets closed down and the vendors came out along with everyone else in town. Families walked together and kids ran up to their parents asking for cotton candy and snow cones. Girls followed boys in groups with their skirts laughing and the boys pretending not to notice. In the middle of the street a stand was erected and the music of the band carried all through town. My friend reached for my hand and we walked along the sidewalk together the music following behind us. It was in this moment I saw Potsdam as my community and I was home.

 

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