Many years ago, one of my first students, who happened to be four and a half years old at the time, said that she wanted her school to feel like home. That honest sentiment, offered straight from the heart of that very young being, has remained with me, and inspired me to work hard to create an atmosphere of “homey – ness” in every single educational setting I have been part of.
However, a feeling of comfort, coziness, and congeniality were difficult to forge in some of the more sterile, utilitarian, and frankly uninspiring (ugly) environments I found myself in. Now all these years later, DRC inhabits an actual house - a very old house with tons of character and warmth (read – wonky, slanted, and scarred wooden floors, old-time porcelain door knobs on solid paneled doors, a nicely weathered front porch, weirdly placed outlets and light switches, original plaster and lathe walls, narrow farmhouse style stairs, southern facing windows, a centrally located large kitchen, and old-fashioned wooden outside doors that allow in a hint of fresh air, around the edges, from the ½ acre yard). Yes, indeed, 48 Riverside Drive is a place that we are all incredibly proud to call home.
The people have not changed, everyone who enters is still sincerely welcomed, and the mission and philosophy are the same; however, this permanent home has made an immense difference. It no longer feels borrowed or transient. And, that feeling of ownership permeates the space and influences how people behave here. I believe that emotional connection is the key.
The formally, self-described, grumpy twelve-year-old, now makes a point of gently bumping my hip at least once a day to say, “I am happy to be here today” and voluntarily heads up the kitchen cleaning crew at the end of the day. The six-year-old, previously defined, spinning dervish, who, on Friday, calmly sat and stacked paper cups, and then placed them on a stuffed toy giraffe as hats and mittens. After that independent exploration, which took up a good portion of the morning, he then headed outside to the backyard to shovel the fallen leaves into a pile and build stick houses, for hours, with the two - 10-year-olds, a 13-year-old, and 8-year-old, who, for the fourth day in a row, were captivated by their imaginary games and stories in the brisk air. The 13-year-old, who said she was interested in trying digital art, took a pen tablet from the art room closet and spent the entire afternoon figuring it out (playing with it). The, nearly, 16-year-old and 17-year-old spent a couple of afternoons working on our new “Respect” sign in the art room while giggling together and listening to music broadcast from a blue tooth speaker. The 16-year-old happily sprawled in any available space to draw, write, do her math, play the guitar, and create her web cartoon, and, who interrupted those tasks to offer whomever walked in the door a smile and a hug.
Friday, the 18-year-old and I spent time sorting through one box - one piece of furniture, at a time, to determine what we are going to use to put together a creative space in the cellar, where he wants to build costumes and other elements related to his interests in Viking History, Mythology, and Super Heroes. We made significant headway, by setting up work tables and arranging craft items on the shelves down there, as well as organizing the boxes of skates, boots, snow pants, and other outdoor gear for our Water, Woods, & Wild Wonders explorations.
Those are just a few vignettes, from the four days we have been here, before we are even completely unpacked. There are still tables and boxes of assorted “stuff” on the porch that don’t have a place. There are innumerable cartons filled with books, waiting for bookshelves to be built and installed, stacked in the upstairs hallway and inside the classroom closet. The Seedlings Room has not been completely unpacked nor has the music room. The garage is in state of disarray - filled with more tables, shelves, assorted cabinets, and various boxes that we really have no idea where they are going or if they will even fit in. Nevertheless, even with all that disorganized clutter, it, simply, doesn’t feel incomplete or unsettled.
Ownership gives us the license to invent the home we all envision, in whatever amount of time it takes us. Each of us has our own definition of home; therefore, this community is built from a combination of all of our individual characters and ideas. And, the beauty of Deep Root Center, is that the vision grows and changes as new stakeholders are welcomed and enfolded into this awe-inspiring amalgamation of unique personalities.
Thank you to the Canton Unitarian Universalist Church for supporting Deep Root Center with their Social Action Shared Offering yesterday. It was great to catch up with old friends and meet new folks who were interested in learning more about DRC.
Join us December 6th from 4-7pm.
We are busily working on getting our fall funding appeal out in the mail. While you are waiting for your paper copy to arrive, you can read it below and then drop on over to our website to easily make your donation on-line.