There is something unique about the bonds we have with people from our childhood. They are the ones who watched us take a header over the handlebars, gracelessly break someone’s heart in 7th grade or accidentally squish a toad to death by loving it too hard. They were there. From the beginning. And therefore know all of ‘us’.
Our particular neighborhood was filled with Hirsch homes and Dutch Colonials. It was also filled with children between the ages of 9 and 0. Oodles of us running around in packs who would descend upon someone’s yard together for a game of Wiffle Ball or Kick the Can. I later came to learn that the stay-at- home mom’s had a secret pact that the woman who lived where they landed would be responsible for the entire bunch until they moved on. This is when the other women sat for a minute with Reader’s Digest or took a bubble bath.
One particular lot sat kiddie corner to our house. It was a giant lot at the main intersection of the neighborhood with a wraparound yard and a pool in the back. Poor Connie Sitter got the raw end of the deal. This became our ‘clubhouse’ with a constant extravaganza of cannonball contests, dance recitals, concerts, picnics, Red Rover, gymnastics, and even the game where you throw knives into the ground to force your opponent into a split. (You could do that back in the ‘70s. Nobody cared.)
When I learned recently that the eldest of the five children, Kathie, passed away all too soon I knew that I needed to attend the funeral. You lose a part of yourself when you lose someone who knew all of you. And so, I went.
I haven’t seen this family in tens of years. Sure, some of us are Facebook friends so I know the basics – like where they live or how many kids of their own they now have. But I haven’t been in the same room with them. As I greeted each one of them, I received a hug. Not a nice-to-see-you-it-has-been-awhile kind of hug. More like I’m-going-to-wrap-my-soul-around-yours-and-squeeze-you-until-you-know-you-are-loved kind of hug. Every single one of them. Separately. One at a time. And without even knowing the others had done the same. And in every instance I was the one that let go first. I can’t remember a time when I felt so instantaneously home.
I just arrived in Oregon to help my daughter to move into her next home at Southern Oregon University. Jimmy Sitter lives just a few minutes down the road and met us at the airport to help us get our luggage to the car, to loan me a drum for a drumming circle in Ashland later this week but, most of all? To give us each a hug with his entire heart to tell us this chapter would be beautiful and safe.
I am grateful for theses anchors from my early years who know all the bits of ‘me’ – even the early pieces that I may have forgotten myself. And even more grateful for their care and tending as I move forward in this journey. There is something about the Sitters, and their hugs, and recovering those innocent, beautiful, care-needing parts of myself that is so fundamental to being whole and happy. No matter where I am, it’s like coming ‘home’.