Just wanted to share a few of the moments with the Casserly House kids that I will cherish the most from last year. Watching them grow was such a privilege. I could go on and on about the ways that these kids challenged me and changed me, but I think the stories speak for themselves.
Walking M. to the T station to meet up with family and having her sing and dance and talk too loud to be polite the entire way there. We were quite a pair.
B., a 7th grade boy, deciding to write everyone in After School notes one day. Mine read: “Megan, get married soon and make sure I’m invited to the wedding.” What? I’m still confused where that came from.
The days during the spring/early summer when I would walk one of the boys, M., home from After School. I usually walked anyway, and he was on my way, so it wasn’t a big thing to do. M. and I would chat while we walked, and it became one of my favorite parts of the day. One of the last times I ever walked him home, we stopped and I bought a snack for both us to eat. You should have seen his face when I let him choose what we would get, and you should have seen mine when he picked $.50 popsicles that were sugar free. He had no idea that he had essentially chosen the cheapest and healthiest option. The joy and innocence on his face was incredible. “You can have two!”
During the Casserly House Christmas party, “Santa” gave each of the kids a gift bag filled with school supplies, some toys/games, and a few other miscellaneous things. The week after we returned to After School, one of the kids was sitting with Jim and I when he tried to give us back a pack of pencils. At first we were both confused, then he explained, “No, I want you to have them. Because you do so much for us and you never have enough pencils.” What pure generosity.
Me: “Hello dear! How’s it going?”
J.: “Don’t call me dear.”
Me: “Oh, okay. Why?”
J.: “Only old people say dear. And you aren’t an old person.”
Me: “Oh. Hello friend?”
The rare, beautiful moments with C. without the rest of the kids around, when he finally let the masks and all of the pretense of trying to be cool slip away, and we were able to just enjoy each other’s company.
“Hey Megan, I think I’m taller than you now!” –everyone
During camp, I had the kids do an Egyptian hieroglyphics activity on the computers one afternoon. They were all supposed to type their names, then other words/phrases that they wanted to try. At one point, I look over and K. has typed in “swag” and nothing else. “Hmm, swag, huh?” “Yeah boy!”
Some kids are harder eggs to crack than others. In particular, M. was a girl who I had a bit of a tumultuous relationship with all year. On the last day of After School, she was the final one to leave, so we ended up sitting on the front porch together, waiting for her mother to pick her up. She was quiet at first and would barely speak, even when I attempted to engage her in conversation. Eventually, I just gave up, and we sat in silence for a couple of minutes. Then, she pulled a dime out of her pocket, looked at me, and said, “Wanna play heads and tails?” We played that game for almost 20 minutes straight, and I don’t know if we ever had a better moment together all year. On the last day, something broke though.
Talking with J. before After School in March:
J.: “Megan, is your job hard?”
J.: “Like when kids act up?”
Me: “Yes, definitely. But when everyone cooperates, it’s great. Really great. And those are the moments when I have one of the best jobs in the world.”
My last day at Casserly, J. stopped by for a quick visit that turned into an hour. We sat around and chatted, and I got the chance to hear about his recent visit to Haiti with family. J. had been having a hard time coping with the fact that I wouldn’t be around in the fall, so I told him about the new JV to help ease the transition. “But I’m still going to miss you, Megan.” Our goodbye was particularly meaningful because I knew that it was one of my last. “Promise you’ll come back. I’m not leaving ’til you promise.” “I promise.”
While fall is undoubtably the best time to be in Boston, I stand by the fact that there is nothing better than a small, Midwestern town in the fall. Nothing says home to me like driving down these roads surrounded by trees drenched in the colors of the season. Give me a country radio station or classic rock, and I’m set. Those moments are best accompanied by Kenny Chesney and John Mellencamp. That is what home feels like to me.
Currently, I’m in the midst of a time of transition: from college, to JVC, to life as a post-grad AND an FJV. While threads of my previous experiences remain, what comes now is something completely different.
That doesn’t meant that there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of Casserly House, don’t text my community members, and don’t wonder how the Arboretum or the Public Garden look right now. There are so many songs that I can’t listen to without being transported to moments from last year. I’m still so emotionally involved with that life; I’m still desperately committed to those people.
As grateful as I am to be closer to my family, it’s strange to realize that the people I consider next to family are so many states away. While I spent most of last year complaining about how far away most of the important people in my life were, I don’t know if I quite realized how strong the new communities were I was building in Boston. The line from “Rivers and Roads” by The Head and The Heart still rings true, because no matter where I am, “My family lives in a different state.”
I have spent so much time obsessing over the idea of home, but… this place I love so dearly, this place that raised me, isn’t it for me any longer. That house is not where I belong. I need my own space and my independence. It’s not that I don’t still need community because know I do; now it’s time for me to build my own.
But I’m grateful for this time here in the meantime as I begin to sort out what I want that to look like next.