Yesterday I got a haircut from John Potoki the owner of Salon Milton in Milton, Delaware. He said something that I very much agree with, he stated that people in America just aren’t the same anymore. He and I discussed that there is a lack of respect for each other and a lack of respect for America in general. Although he did say he didn’t feel that here in our Town. John is contemplative and he is a strong and active member of this community, I respect and admire his forthrightness and his good intentions which become actions. He is one person in a sea of people doing the right things for all the right reasons. I love him for that. I want to thank him for taking the time to notice this community and the individuals in it. Something he does well and without seeking rewards for his actions He does it just because he loves his community. Mind you there are a lot people here to thank for their efforts to help people in this community. Hopefully I will get to write about them in another writing someday soon.
I have also noticed, and not necessarily everywhere; in many communities and towns there is a serious lack of concern and respect for each other or lack of sense community in general. This saddens me because I know what it means to be involved in a Town where people Care for one another and others don’t have any idea what it feels like.
When I think about this topic it always takes me back to the many wonderful people I grew up with and a Town that I grew up in; Lewes, Delaware. These are memories always worth reliving in my mind or on paper. Unfortunately, I don’t know Lewes or the many new faces there so well anymore. Milton is my home now and I know I feel a part of it and belong to the people here, even though I have become an absent figure in its events and goings on this summer. I’ve been working on my house but that doesn’t make me feel any less a part of this community. It thrives on small town values which at times can be seen as non-progressive or annoying and even at times we have been called uneducated; that one makes me laugh, as it is so far from the truth. I say let them call us what they will, we know who we are and we know who are neighbors are. That I think, makes all the difference.
Back to Lewes where they rallied around a little girl and her family whose life had just been torn apart by violence more than 40 years ago, that’s how people should be. When they see a need, they stand up, they do, they respond, and they extend a helping hand. They do not just sit around and think, that’s someone else’s kid or family. They understand that is one of their own, regardless of blood or ties, or where they came from. I’ve experienced that here as well for myself and happily been a part of that for others. I just think in general whether we are homebodies or we’re busy, we should keep track of who’s in our neighborhood, how the people around us are doing, and without being nosey or intrusive be aware of the town and what people need. Life is too short to be so self engaged that we miss the big picture and your community. Most people feel the need to be a part of something larger than themselves; that comes in many ways, shapes, and forms.
A little story about a woman that I loved, who was part of our circle of people we rallied around and who rallied around us; lived on Mulberry Street in Lewes when I was only a child. She and her husband had one the coolest houses I was ever in and I was in many of them. She always had a big jar of candy that I could eat anything I wanted, dots, little marshmallow ice cream cones, root beer barrels; of course this was appealing to a child but that wasn’t all the joy she brought to me. It was larger than that and I felt the connection even then.
Today I see her daughter, Amy (yes we have the same name) I’ll be eating dinner with her at her home next to her parents old home on Mulberry Street. Suzy Cleaver is what we called her and I’ll always know her as Mrs. Cleaver, she stood about 5 foot tall, if that. Yet she had one of the biggest hearts and personalities you ever met. She was also rather mischievous or that’s what I always thought as a kid and I always liked that in people; I’m kind of that way too. It was in her laugh and the way she carried herself never better than anyone else, just wanting to find her community there in Lewes, she and her husband George were from Baltimore and came in the Summer time to their lovely home and new found love, the Delaware shore town.
After I became a victim of a violence I was a kid whose friends changed, they were the younger kids on my street, the younger brothers and sisters of the kids I used to hang out with because my friends kind of moved ahead of me in school and ability. So my friends became Tony Zigman and Troy Reynolds and the new kids I met in school, or who moved to the block. Tony and Troy lived on my street and we hung out a lot. In fact, they tried to teach me how to ride a bike again, I was 11 and they were nine. We used one of Tony’s old bikes and I put a bar on it for handlebars. They flanked me to support my wobbly, unbalanced body on two wheels, with their bikes, our pedals became entangled and I went sailing over the handlebars onto my chin. It was not their fault it was probably my idea and they were trying to help me. I look back on that day as one of the best days of my life, even though I ended up with 10 stitches in my chin, I eventually learned to ride a bike again. I also spent a lot of time either alone or with adults. The adults in my life also played a big part of who I became they were people that believed that I could do and become anything, they listened to my questions and always took me very seriously and I felt as if I was one of them.
Tony, Troy and I built a fort in my driveway from scrap wood found around the neighborhood. We bought nails by the bag full like we used to at the hardware store. It had a floor, a door that locked, a window with rat wire for a screen with a shutter on it that latched to keep the rain out. Since the roof was flat, I insisted we try to get a pitch on it so the rain would run off so it had four layers of wood for a roof. I am telling you it was Solid! Years later tearing it apart would be no easy task for me.
Needless to say I always wanted to sleep in our fort like I was camping and of course no one was going to let me do that after what had happened to me only two years earlier. Enter Mrs. Cleaver, she heard me begging one day to sleep outside in this wooden box and she didn’t even hesitate to offer to camp out with me. Looking back, she was actually the only person that could have spent the night in it with me, because of her size. She was a joyful person to be around and she loved me and I loved her, she had a child’s sense of adventure and fun. How could you resist that? She came over that summer and we set it up with sleeping bags and flashlights, the works. When it got dark we went out and slept in it or at least tried it was very hot, only having one window was a disadvantage. I think at some point late in the evening we came in and she stayed at our house. Mom cooked us a big camp breakfast, eggs and bacon, the next morning which we ate on the picnic table.
That’s the kind of person she was and those are the kind of people that we were surrounded by, the kind of folks willing to make a child happy, willing to go the extra mile for a family in need, willing to be full members of a Community. I was so lucky to grow up in Lewes. Mrs. Cleaver unfortunately died several years ago and I will forever miss her. She had class and a twinkle in her eye, a smile on her face, which lead you to believe she was always up to something; truth be known she probably was.
So here’s to Mrs. Cleaver and the many people in Communities around the country and in our town of Milton that know where the kids are, that help their neighbors that are participants in their communities. Even in small ways like sleeping outside with a kid who wants to camp in their fort, or planting the town full of gardens just to make it pretty, or donating money and time to make sure the kids have a great July fourth celebration, or collecting school donations for the kids at the local elementary school, any of the hundred little things that go on in Communities of people who care to celebrate their town and the people in it.
~All Photos taken by Amy Kratz 2014 and 2015. Photo #2 Jennie Lawson Taking Pictures of the band.