|20yr 20 years of cohousing||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: Jessie Kome (jehakomac.com)|
|Date: Sun, 27 Jan 2013 15:38:31 -0800 (PST)|
Hello cohousers- Cohousing came into my father's life before it came into mine. Dad belonged to a community group (along Scott Peck lines) that sometimes met at his house. If I was home from college, doing laundry or rummaging the fridge, the group members would sometimes be there, sharing thoughts, feelings, ideas, experiences. And one night in the early 90's, when I came home for a visit from my first job after graduate school, they talked about cohousing. I sat off to one side, eating a bowl of cereal and listening. That was the first time I ever heard about cohousing. They talked about a neighborhood designed to support community bonding. The levels of human bonds; family, friends, citizens - that somehow the meaning of "neighbor" had gotten diluted or lost. They talked about how to be a good neighbor and what it would mean to children, elders, parents, singles. I guess the quiet discussion inspired more people than just me. At least three other people from that night moved into cohousing or similar intentional communities over the next few years, Arcadia, Blue Heron, Solterra, Eno Commons. My family and I joined Eno Commons Cohousing during development in 1996. It was not all puppies and balloons. What cohousing project in development ever is? I'm not sure what we would have done without advice from the veterans on cohousing-L who had all been there before. They encouraged us on the listserv, in private emails, making recommendations for trainers, and one or two even showing up in person during the development and early move-in years. When we moved into Eno Commons in 1998 (first household to move in), one neighbor took care of our three-year-old all day, and a herd of eager neighbors moved everything out of the truck in record time. We began to experience for ourselves the cohousing truism than developing cohousing is hard and living in cohousing is easy. In 2002, I found out again that cohousing extends beyond individual neighborhood boundaries when I got a chance to go to Washington, DC, to help manage the federal 9/11 recovery grants. My husband and I decided, despite the strenuous objections of our two children who could not remember living anywhere except in cohousing, to leave Eno Commons so I could take what we hoped (and still do) was a once in a lifetime job. When I posted a farewell note on cohousing-L, I got back a note from Ann Zabaldo telling me not to purchase anything in DC until I talked to her. Turned out, she was trying to form the kernel of members for what would become Eastern Village Cohousing, where we live now. (And yes, that does make us serial cohousers.) In December 2002, we were the second member household to pay our membership fee (by 43 seconds). And so we went through development again, this time with a seasoned affordable housing developer and builder. Nope - development was still not fun. We got advice from cohousing-L again. Ann Zabaldo is a walking encyclopedia of how-to-do-cohousing well. Her burning soul carried us through a lot of the usual development turbulence. Our sister community, Takoma Village, gave us room to meet and showed our prospective members how cool cohousing can be. They even let us take over their common kitchen for an enormous two-community holiday meal, lending me a stick blender and providing clear instructions on using the dishwasher. During Eastern Village development, when we got homesick, Eno Commons opened its arms wide when we returned for visits. The kids would often stay with friends in separate houses, while I stayed in a third house. I would see them around the community and catch up with them at community meals, but I never worried about them there. Over the years since 2002, one or both kids has returned to Eno Commons every summer for a week or two or three. Eno Commons neighbors sometimes come visit us here. Eno Commons kids friended me on Facebook when my own kids weren't ready to yet. Some of them post on my wall to this day. The connections have become less intense as kids have grown and people moved in and out of the neighborhood, but, for my part, if Eno Commons calls, I will always answer. Somehow, some way. Eastern Village Cohousing, where we have lived since 2004, is so comfortable to live in, we sometimes are amazed when we remember how long we have been here. Time passes more easily somehow when you know you will have support if you need it. We have the usual issues (pets, progeny and all the "p" words) and rough spots and long discussions about how awful we are and what we need to do to get better. I think we are good enough, and here's how I know: Our older child, Georgia, a college student, served as a moderator at a panel at the cohousing conference in DC a couple years back. I was on the panel and astonished at her poise and skill, how she confidently helped weave the discussion and included the panel and the audience members in back and forth discussion. When I praised her, she just said she was raised in cohousing, what did I expect? (She's preparing her undergraduate honors thesis on what people of different backgrounds bring to cohousing.) I have learned that cohousing is good when times are terrible. About four years after we moved into Eastern Village, as I was immersed in the beginning of the long-term recovery from Hurricane Katrina and my husband was working a tough retail management job, our son Harrison developed an agonizing condition that stumped doctors for two years, then required two brain surgeries and an abdominal surgery, medications, tutors. He has idiopathic intracranial hypertension and chronic migraines and he had terrible sound sensitivity, headaches, light sensitivity. His ability to deal with visitors was unpredictable, and he would have been completely isolated from visitors anywhere but cohousing. Neighbors checked with us almost every day. One neighbor came to talk quietly with Harry from time to time. On good days, the other kids dragged him off to play Rock Band. When he had a good week, neighbors from Eno Commons (five hours away) would come get him for a visit. Other neighbors reached out to me, my husband, our daughter. Blessedly, not just to go on and on about Harry, but also to do normal neighborhood things. To talk over a pending issue, to help fix a broken whatever, to watch a baby or a boiling pot for a minute. Harry played a lot of online strategy games (the endorphins help with pain management), prompting one of our neighbors to hire Harry as a tester for an app he was developing for the Apple App store. A renter turned out to be in remission from the same condition (she found out through the neighborhood listserv) and she came to talk to Harry, give him some hope. As bad as the physical and mental health issues the whole family had to deal with were, we always knew the community was there if and when we needed it. I could go on and on. (But I won't.) Through everything, I keep remembering that first conversation, the hope for the quiet grace of living together meaning to do well by each other. For me, despite all the human messes we make, cohousing fulfills its promise. Jessie Handforth Kome Eastern Village Cohousing Silver Spring, Maryland USA "Where I am planning spring cooking classes for the neighborhood kids."
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