I watched as my oldest laughed and jumped and swam and raced with all these amazing young people that he didn't know a year ago.
I chatted and laughed with kind and funny people, women and men I know call neighbors and friends. I walked around the outside of the pool with a friend so she could get her "steps" in and, at the same time, spy on her teenage kids. (Shh.)
They helped me laugh off the fact that earlier in the day, within just one short hour of the summer officially starting, I had to wrestle a screaming, kicking toddler and three bags on the long walk of shame from the kiddie pool to the parking lot. One hour was all it took for us to bless the neighborhood with our very special (and ear-splitting) brand of chaos.
Last year I would have left the pool, lonely and dejected and embarrassed, vowing never to come back again. (And then my husband would have eventually talked me into trying again.)
But here's the difference this summer.
This summer I know we are surrounded by people who have been there. Who know us. Who aren't secretly judging us in their heads and saying things behind their hands like "that kid just needs a good spanking, look how he acts in public!" Who remember (and share about) their own times racing from the pool to the car with their own unhinged toddlers in their arms.
This time last year I was struggling hard with the reality of moving back to Richmond. Fearful, really, that we would make the same poor choices we made last time around. That we would overschedule our lives. Hide the true realities of our days. That the painful way we left it last time around would follow us right back and set up shop shop in our home as an unescapable anxiety.
But it hasn't. God is so good.
Yes, we had a slow start last summer. A lonely first two months here. Tears before bed. Isolation in our chaos. There are few things harder than watching your normally joyful child struggle deeply with sadness and know that you have been the cause.
But then school happened. Neighbors came outside. We took a risk and skipped right past the painful small talk and just got to know each other. No hiding. Our kids became friends. My oldest found some besties. My younger ones found some teenagers to hero worship, boys who actually knock on the door and ask to play with our toddlers. Friends who drop everything when you call and say "we need you to come grab the boys" as your younger one is having a seizure. Who clean your house and watch your kids and fill your fridge so you can keep going when you come home from the hospital.
I found friends to pray with, who see our boys as beautiful and precious and children created in the image of God who I know will fight with every ounce of their being alongside of us to make our schools and neighborhoods and churches better and safer places in which to raise our black sons.
We have found something so, so precious here.
This time last year I wrote this:
Who helps us to laugh at what life throws at us and keep going.
So today, as I watched my son with eyes glowing and smile so wide, and as I sat next to these amazing new friends, I felt overwhelmed. With gratefulness, with hope and with joy.
And with the knowledge that this village has been a part of my healing in ways I never could have expected.