When I was in high school, I loved attending and working on the staff of a religious retreat called Happening. Not only were we encouraged to ask the difficult questions, but we were also able to do this in a close, positive atmosphere. Building community was the most important theme, and during the weekend, I experienced a sense of belonging to something larger, a sense of purpose. I spent three days in this wonderful utopia, before crashing against the rocks of reality.

Then, during the second such retreat, someone gave a talk that changed everything. The last talk of the weekend is always the “back to reality” talk, to prepare everyone for re-entry into the “real world.” This time, the theme was that we already were in reality. That we were all real people, and the community we created, in such a positive atmosphere, was real.

And so, throughout my adult life, I have been searching for that community in the “real world.” I have been looking for places where I can nurture that positive, cohesive atmosphere.

And I have found it many times.

One of the most memorable places where I found it was in our first neighborhood, after we were married. It was called “Pleasant Beach Mobile Home Resort,” and I wrote about it here.

Last weekend, while Beanie was staying with her grandparents, Rob and I made a trip back to Pleasant Beach. We are considering renting a lot there and living in the motor home, while we tie up some loose ends, after we are done with the house.  We brought a picture, as evidence that we had lived there before, because we didn’t expect anyone to remember us.

What followed was a very delightful walk.  People most definitely did remember us, although it’s been 9 years since we lived there.  Everyone was happy to see “the newlyweds,” and they fussed over pictures of Beanie.  They caught us up on all of the drama that had taken place over the years–the park went through a rough period, but now things are returning to the way they were.  Our old house was now the social gathering place in the park.  We learned who had moved away, who had died, and we met some of the new residents (including two, who were boaters).  We were assured that the manager (sadly, the lady who managed the park when we lived there has long since retired and moved out of the park) would definitely let us park our motor home on a lot.

For dinner, we ate at our old restaurant, in “our” table.  The restaurant had changed ownership and had a new name, but much of the staff had stayed.  Everyone came over the greet us, as they all had been wondering what we have been up to.  At the table next to us, we conversed with a couple who vacations in Galveston–they said we definitely need to take Beanie to the beach.

This is what it is like to return home, never as a stranger.  This is the kind of community we seek to become a part of, and help create if necessary, wherever life takes us next.

Back in 2001…

boat                                                                     pbsunset


trailer                                                                        trailerkitchen

And last weekend…

betterfrogandtrailer                                                                          trailer

23 thoughts on “Community

  1. What a great story Bethany….you are so right that a community is such a rewarding part of a happy life. I too love to travel but after a while I start longing for my “place” and look forward to returning to my friends/family. How cool that they all not only remembered you, but welcomed you back with open arms. The good news is that we can find “community” in many places if we seek it out…

  2. You are so right about community. I have had a hard time finding that here in FL being far away from my family and friends from school.

  3. Moving and beautiful post, Bethany. You are creating community online too. We have been shown an incredible amount of kindness online which I honestly thought did not exist before we began blogging.

  4. What fun to go back and have people remember you. It must have been surreal in some ways – it would be for me if we moved away from here. It’s such a smaller story, but the waitstaff of restaurants and cafes all move around Houston, so we sometimes get to see people we thought we never would again. Our old cook friend Tony worked in two cafes we frequented. When we last saw him, he was in the grocery store with his mom. We live in Houston, so running into people isn’t that easy.

        • Hehe, ask CJ about the e-mail…

          But, yes, I took a teaching job in Pasadena, and we want to live on the water. I’m aiming for the Clear Creek school district, and we have family in Friendswood.

          So, yeah, we’re totally meeting IRL… 😉

  5. How fun to get to see people you haven’t seen in years. I think this goes to show the grass isn’t always greener in the house. I also believe you just had another experience showing you made the wrong choice giving in to the pressure to buy a house. You don’t seem to have made any lasting connections there.

    • Beanie has a lot of fans at the grocery store through the woods, and our neighbors across the street chat with us. Otherwise, not much. We thought this town would be like the place we left, because it is also a small, up-north resort town. But it has not had the same sense of fun and community.

  6. One of my favorite places I’ll probably never live in again, but I cherish our yearly visit(and am looking forward to it in the next couple of weeks!).

  7. This was such a lovely story. Years ago my hubby and I lived near Fredericksburg VA. We had just moved there and didn’t know anyone. One night we went into town to have dinner. While we were eating I noticed a cardboard sign with an arrow advertising a bar, (This was at the back of the restaurant). We went in after dinner and you would have thought we grew up there. The place was packed and everyone welcomed us. There were people of all ages (we were in our mid 20s at the time). Everyone was singing and dancing to the jukebox, it was great. We ended up hanging out there every weekend for about a year or so. Unfortunately the place closed and we moved to another city. I’ll never forget Torbleau’s or the people we met there. As an earlier poster said, there is something special about connecting with a community.

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