Monday, May 14, 2012

The human search for connections

Photo: Danny's birthday, which was also Easter (hence the ears).

When we were young, we moved rather frequently, or so it seemed to us at the time, when the majority of kids we knew lived in the same house from birth to graduation. The longest we stayed in one house, until junior high, was four years. The moves weren't dramatic for their distance, but a few were enough to put the three of us Roelle kids in a new school and new social situation.

From age 3 to 7, we lived in a suburban track neighborhood full of kids. We had easily unlocked the secret of the circle as a gathering point and made several close friends with whom we spent many an afternoon adventuring. There was a bully, a couple of annoying kids, a spoiled kid who just assumed everyone would like him - a whole society.

From there we moved to a small town about 45 minutes away. As it was early April, we had a few months left of the school year, but didn't really connect with anyone at school. My brothers and I formulated a plan. We would play primarily in the front yard, with occasional forays up and down the street, so that kids would see us and we could make friends.

It didn't work all that well. There were a couple of kids in the neighborhood. I became friends with a girl on the corner of the street. Sonny found someone to hang out with. But it wasn't the whole society of kids we had had at our last place.

We were there for just over a year. The following summer we moved to a farmhouse with a bunch of land on a relatively busy road for the country, just about 15 minutes from our last place – but at a new school.

Again, we spent the summer playing in the front yard, desperate for connections, for friends and playmates to “fall in our laps”. It had been so easy in the suburb. In the country, cars passed at 55mph and people had huge properties to walk and play in, they didn't come by.

I don't want to give any impression that we were harmed by the moves or that we were sad and lonely. Everything else aside, we had our cohort of 3 for the summer until school started. We fought like crazy and created our own adventures.

But we yearned for connections and weren't sure how to make them. That was missing. The companion crowd, the society of kids that we had experienced briefly, didn't emerge in these other places.

Today, when I think about the value of connections, I think about those summers in the front yard, trying to be noticed. It's the first major evidence I have of the importance of a tribe in my own life. And the start of a search for the tool to create connections - story.

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