Monday, April 28, 2008

It takes a Borough

The Woman who could well become our next President wrote a book famously titled, "It Takes a Village". Her premise being; a whole village raises a child. In my case, it may be a whole Borough and some of the outer boroughs too. One of the most incredible things that has happened to me since bringing Phoebe into my life is to see the amazing way people have rallied around me and this baby. The least likely people have become a part of Phoebe's inner circle. She is already blessed to have Grandparents up the block, and Aunt and Uncle across the street, an Auntie and her dog next store and a handsome guy named Jeff who answers to Dada these days. It must be said that his boyfriend skills are only exceeded by his parenting skills. He never tries to teach me anything, but I learn from him every time he's with us. (Phoebe and I are both very fond of him.)

But the surprising cadre of caring compatriots has come from the people I met volunteering at the Soup Kitchen on Monday nights. For the past three or so years, I have been spending most Monday evenings in the basement of All Souls Church (Unitarian- Love all serve all types :). I started volunteering at a low point in my life. I had spent years already trying to bring a child into my life, trying to get published, trying to live the dream of an New York writer, trying to be as successful as I had been in my earlier career in advertising. I heard a song one day whose lyrics said, "If you're feeling helpless, help someone." It's a fairly simple thought. I needed to stop wallowing in my defeats, I need to do something for someone other than myself.

The Monday night crowd is ever changing as volunteers come and go. But there is a core crew. Some work in the kitchen, cooking and prepping and washing dishes. The other group is out on the floor serving the over 200 guests who join us for a free meal. George Collins, who runs the program, is proud to tell new volunteers that we are the only Soup Kitchen in NYC that serves their meal "restaurant style" with table cloths and china and silverware. The same sets they use for Church functions. I always worked with the servers, preferring to be out on the floor chatting up the guests. There are regulars there too and over time, you get to know one another. It's a community in itself.

Many of the people who volunteered at the fundraiser to build Phoebe's school in Vietnam were from the serving crowd. These are people who are happy to put their hand up for a good cause, and they often do. Last Summer some of the Kitchen staff planned a picnic and invited some of the regulars from the Serving crew. Only 3 of us went, but it was the beginning of getting to know the Kitchen folk. Many of them have been friends for years and are well integrated into each other lives. They attend each others birthdays and charity functions and other events. They were all so excited for me when I revealed that I was adopting a baby from Vietnam. They became my cheerleaders. In fact, many people from inside and out of the kitchen at All Souls said they followed my blog when I was away and told others to read it too. Suddenly, there was this wave of good energy coming my way from people I had really only just gotten to know.

It was there I met Dan (a kitchen guy) and Candice (a server gal) , who have become two of Phoebe's favorite people. They offer their time to us and relieve this single mom for a precious few hours or an evening. Jessica and Priscilla have come by too and Annie who stopped by one Sunday after Church. The gratitude I feel towards these people cannot be measured- certainly not by conventional means. In the last couple of weeks, I had a stomach bug and two pinched nerves in my neck. It is the single scariest thing as a new mom and a single mom, to be sick when you have a new baby. No matter how much help you have, in the end of the day this little person only has you to count on and you want to be as healthy as you can be. You want to be there for her. But when life eventually gets the best of you and your digestive system, you have to learn how to ask for help. I'm learning. These amazing people in my life make it easier, but it is still hard to ask. You don't want to impose, ask too much, be too needy...

I do feel fortunate that Phoebe is such a good, socially adorable being. She is fun to be around. She's so responsive. You get back as much as you give. It helps us in the babysitting department :)

I have been lucky to also find a wonderful part-time babysitter who gives me some help during the week. Antonia is smart and engaging and Phoebe loves her. I have already seen a few caregivers come and go and I know that it is always fluid when it comes to hiring help, but right now, we are starting to find our groove. Phoebe is teething these days, but she is sleeping better than ever. I'm sleeping more too and realizing I have a network of people to help me raise this beauty. I may even get back to my writing and posting more often. Slowly, slowly, it feels like I'm getting the hang of this child raising thing. But yes, It takes a borough, indeed.

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