In a former life (before kids), I used to train for and run marathons. Many runners find themselves hitting a “wall” of sorts somewhere around mile 18-20, and articles in running magazines give hints and strategies for getting past the wall and finishing the race. Among them: just keep going. Don’t focus on the next 8 miles, or even the next half mile. Just focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Focus on the next footstep.
I’ve always found the proverbial marathon “WALL” to be a wonderful metaphor for any hard season in life. Opening the Bungalow ALC hasn’t been hard in the sense of being agonizing or painful, but it HAS been a lot of work and emotional energy. There were many times when I felt the program growing so fast that I became overwhelmed and paralyzed with fear. So. Many. Details. So. Many. Awesome. Kids. So. Much. Joy. So. Many. Logistics. Can I really do this? Am I enough? And yet – could I stop? Could I give up on the dream when the universe is telling me in every way possible how deeply our town needs this little Bungalow community? So I kept to my marathon strategy, and I just kept… going. I kept choosing what seemed like the next right thing and focusing on the child/parent/task before me.
In the thick of things, it didn’t feel like much. It didn’t feel like enough. But there were transcendental moments. There were many of them, really. Looking back now at the sum of our incremental progress in the last year…I mean, WOW. Look at what we did! Look with me!
I see a big fruitless mulberry tree shading a yard filled with magic.
I see children digging in the sand and writing their names with sticks.
I see carving pumpkins and pumpkin seeds in piles of 10, then 25, then 100 and on. How many seeds were in that pumpkin? A LOT!
I see beautiful books read aloud by beautiful people to beautiful people.
I see glorious colors of paint on crooked easels and smocks.
I see woodworking.
I see colored leaves, dropping to the ground for the autumn.
I see raked piles cushioning the bottom of the slide.
I see children learning to use a planer with the guidance of a patient facilitator.
I see a water table filled with sand and seashells, rocks and treasures.
I see a makeshift tent, patched together with a parachute, yarn, and the determined glue of children’s imaginations.
I see gingerbread houses decorated and licked clean.
I see one of the younger kids swinging and touching the tree with her foot for the first time (that’s a milestone around here)!
I see slime-obsessed tweenagers experimenting to create the perfect concoction.
I see letters in the sand blossoming into words in the sand.
I see quiet places to hide. Hammocks and hideouts.
I see bumps and scratches, grubby hands, and faces glowing with dirt.
I see kids climbing branches, creating and building hideouts in the “forgotten forest.”
I see painted masterpieces hanging to dry on the line.
I see three boys laughing uncontrollably on the tire swing, after figuring out it takes THREE to maximize the spin velocity.
I see legos. Everywhere.
I see two 2-year-olds grow into 3-year-olds while mastering the English language.
I see slime success – “did you just make a bubble with that?”
I see card games. Hand and Foot. Nickels. More?
I see 4 year-olds in the laps of 12 year-olds learning Uno.
I see a garden bed overgrown with weeds, a rotted pumpkin and winter debris.
I see a garden bed cleared.
I see two good friends stretching a single batch of slime across the room and swinging it into a bubble.
I see puddles and splashing and mud.
I see a big sister teaching letters to a younger brother.
I see owl pellets, dissected and opened like treasure chests. Rodent bones, classified.
I see pouring and measuring in the lab and at the water table.
I see big kids and little kids sliding into the last pile of leaves remaining from the magic mulberry tree.
I see children dressed up as birds, princesses, Spider-Man, firefighters and more.
I see kids eating lunch on the roof of the play house.
I see kids eating lunch in the branches of the tree.
I see our first strawberry seedlings in the newly cleared garden bed.
I see turtles coming out of hibernation.
I see clay in piles, in hands, in pinch-pots, in towers and flattened into pancakes.
I see surprise mushrooms and pansies popping up between the strawberries.
I see the spring explosion of chickweed and wood sorrel and children passing along their foraging knowledge.
I see tag and chase.
I see multi-aged games of hide and seek.
I see Blokus and Mancala, and Ticket to Ride, and Rubik’s cubes and Cataan.
I see caterpillars.
I see 9 kids of 7 different ages in one room involved in 5 elaborate scenarios of play.
I see a 3 year old master the rope swing.
I see the loss of our beloved forgotten forest to a neighbor with a different vision for her yard.
I see Chrysalids.
I see a 2 year-old scientist checking on gravity. (Still works!)
I see warmer weather and larger splashes from the water table.
I see a tower of blocks as tall as a 3 year-old. Boom! Tower down.
I see butterflies.
I see more elaborate block towers, now as tall as a 6 year-old. Boom! Tower down.
I see the cockroaches begin to emerge in search of water and children excited to capture them and give our turtles a crunchy feast.
I see our first red strawberries. I taste them too. They are the best I’ve ever had.
I see Gabby, our sweet old Bungalow Golden Retriever, enjoying her 100th belly rub of the week.
I see BUBBLES of unusual size!
I see a group of 9-12-year olds creating their own boundaries for a lab that has become overrun with slime.
I see more elaborate towers. Block towers so tall, the facilitator needs a stool to add to the top. Boom! Tower down.
I see a scorching day, and a community of families doing yard work to keep our Bungalow beautiful (in its own disheveled way).
I see a water balloon “fight” filled with laughter and smiles and wet hair and clothes.
I see snap circuit creations. A light, a doorbell, an alarm.
I see a rainbow of tie-dye shirts, each as unique as the beautiful humans that made them, hanging on the line to dry.
I see an open house filled with beautiful people, beautiful questions, and beautiful stories of our special home.
I see a fruitless mulberry tree, covered again with leaves, shading a play yard utopia filled with magic.
I see children of all ages.
And they are free.
And they are HAPPY.
They have grown in every way over the course of a beautiful year.
And I love them all.
We’ve run quite a marathon, haven’t we? And I sense we’re nowhere near the finish line, or that the finish line is even important. We’re just…on a path, and it’s a good path. I sense that if we continue to set one foot in front of the other, and do the next right thing, we will see our community continue to grow and thrive and change and evolve while staying true to the magic that brought us together under the shade of our mulberry tree: trust and freedom.
You know, I was right to ask “Can I do this,” after all. Because I really can’t. Not alone. WE can. And we have! In January, we had 3 founding families, 6 children and a Facebook page. As we close out the year, we served 10 families, 23 children, and hosted countless visitors, many of whom will join us in the fall. We have planted a beautiful little community here on Bungalow Lane, and things are taking root.
I’m really glad we kept going, y’all. Thank you for making this a truly beautiful year and walking this path with us. Thank you. See you at The Bungalow!