It's a Wonderful Life; Why, Yes, It Is

It's indeed a wonderful life.  In Flat Rock Creek, anyway.  How, you may ask, do I know this?  Well, let me recount for you the ways.

We had our first ever block party last weekend on a coolish October Saturday evening and neighbors not only turned out, they brought tons of scrumptious dishes to share.  Since this was our first effort at such a gathering, I had hedged my bets by buying extra chips and desserts just in case we didn't have enough.   Not an issue.  A lovely group of neighbors helped organize it, get the word out, and set up the tables and grills.

It was a celebration of sorts in that the neighborhood had galvanized over the summer and worked mightily to save Flat Rock Creek Pool by sending emails, making phone calls, gathering signatures, attending city council meetings, and communicating with each other and city personnel. (I documented the proposed plan to close the pool on my blog in a series of 6 essays called "The Pool Chronicles."  Who knew blogging would lead to community activism?)

The best news of all?  The pool in our neighborhood has been saved---officially. The city council, with the solid support of our own city council members, voted to renovate the pool from stem to stern and has designated the necessary funds to make that happen. The process for soliciting construction bids is underway.

We invited to our block party the Park and Recreation director who had deftly guided the process of garnering resident input on the design of the new pool.  He kindly accepted our invitation and stopped by with a large board of the selected pool concept in tow,  graciously fielding questions about the construction time line and design elements.  It's a good sign of the health of a city when someone gives up some precious off-duty hours to meet and greet the citizenry.  We also  had a visit from a young police officer who stopped by to check in on us and let us know he's a resource in our area.

And the most dedicated city worker award has to go to the woman responsible for getting us the barricades to block our street.  We'd filled out the requisite paperwork for the event and city workers were to drop them off before 5:00 on Friday night.  When I arrived home and noted they had not been delivered, I called the number on the form and the voice on the other end promised she'd check it out.

It turns out the barricades had been delivered a couple of blocks away by accident.  Within an hour, the woman in charge of block party street closures was handily wresting them from the back of a city truck herself and depositing them in the appropriate spots.

When neighbors saw her, of course they invited her to the block party.  She politely declined, having already given up a perfectly good Friday evening to make sure we had a great Saturday night.   Now this was above and beyond the call of her duty, but, for the record, who wouldn't want to live in a city where a public official cheerily solves the problem and gets the job done?

As for great new neighborhoods, my parents moved two months ago to a retirement community after health issues prompted a new living situation. They've become reacquainted with lots of old friends from old neighborhoods and schools and communities they've been a part of throughout their lives.

To his credit, my dad has illustrated his seemingly infinite capacity for adaptability and hit the ground running in his new digs, boarding a bus everyday to wherever it goes---stores, field trips, doctor visits--- after having to give up driving.   No mean feat for someone with wanderlust and an itch to hang out at Costco and scour flea markets on a whim.  By all indications, he has fast become the mayor of this joint.

And speaking of great neighborhoods of yore, I found an old friend on Facebook.  The old friend happens to be featured in a piece I wrote about her mother last winter: Before Her Time. We had not been in touch for over twenty years.  It meant the world to me that she read this tribute to her mother, a profoundly influential figure in my life, and that she shared it with her family, especially her own children who never got to meet their grandmother.

Unbelievably, this month marks 24 years since Mrs. Shelton's (her real name--she is Mrs. Jordan in the post) premature passing.  She was an original participant in the first block party on 66th Street back in the day. In a previous post (Happy 4th of July---Have a Blast!), I gave a glimpse of those notorious block parties which still rage on every year, some 40 years later.

On another note, my van stopped dead in its tracks WHILE I WAS DRIVING IT the other night. The timing belt blew out quite unexpectedly as I was driving to a grocery store close to home around 8:00 PM on my way to pick up some food for a work function the next day.  Without so much as a flash of a warning light or the click or chime of a signal to alert me, I came to an non-screeching halt in the middle of a major thoroughfare, thankfully with little traffic at that hour and no car behind me.

And how exactly was this expensive little episode so wonderful?  Well, it didn't occur 3 hours prior when I was flying at highway speeds through the Bermuda triangle of interstates with semis bearing down on me from all sides. Obviously, not the best place for a car to stop inexplicably.

And I was rescued from this car crisis by my husband and a good friend and neighbor, a mechanic who has come to my aid in just about every corner of the metro area. You see, my old van had a penchant for literally falling apart the instant my husband, a decent automotive troubleshooter himself, ventured so much as 1 hour outside the city limits. Once again, our friend performed his usual vehicular miracle-working and this van was mobile within 24 hours.

I've been away from blogging for a while and some of what I've spoken of here is fairly representative of what's been keeping me so dang busy. Even work has been unusually frenzied as we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the program I direct.  I began Flat Rock Creek Notebook over a year ago in order to learn enough about blogging to create one for work purposes.

I'm pleased to report that we launched that blog and I am enormously proud of how it's serving as a new professional development tool for my program. It doesn't look a thing like my own blog (it has pictures!) and I won't ask you to read it because you would likely find it decidedly boring---it's all about academic writing and professional development stuff for college faculty. Yeah, I know. Yawn.

But all of the celebrating of the program and harkening back to the foundation laid so carefully and thoughtfully by those who started it 25 years ago reminds me of the tremendous good that can happen when people from all sectors work together on anything---a block party, saving a city pool, a move to unfamiliar surroundings, a faulty car, a faculty development program---and especially when they respect each other and those who came before them. And that is how I know, unquestionably, it's still a wonderful life.



Flat Rock Creek Notebook: Memoirs of the Here and Now


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