When you are hit with a tragedy, being part of a community is a wonderful thing.  In the 20 years we have lived in Knoxville since our marriage, John and I and our five children have become a part of several communities, and all of them have rallied round to provide prayers, support, and gifts to get us through this crisis.  Although the support itself does not surprise me, the magnitude of it does.  It has been amazing.
We’ve received cards and gifts from all the schools our kids have attended, people John works with, our church, our family, and even from communities that our extended families are part of–their churches, their friends.   I am going to talk about all of this a little at a time.  It’s too overwhelming and I guarantee if I put it in a list format you would get tired and stop reading before you got to the end–it’s that much.
What I want to write about today is how touched I’ve been to be remembered by connections that are more remote timewise.  We have Facebook to thank for that.  I was an exceptionally good person about keeping in touch pre-email and pre-Facebook.  I may be the last person left on earth who likes to write actual letters on paper, although even I have slacked way off on that in recent years.  But no one can keep in touch with everyone–or at least we couldn’t before Facebook.
John graduated from law school when Jake was a baby, so that was over seventeen years ago.  As you go through the hell that is law school, you naturally become close to your classmates, and we enjoyed a fun community with those folks at that time.  Hardly anyone else had kids, so everyone enjoyed Emily, who was six months old when John started school.  It was sad when so many of our friends, including all the ones we were closest to, moved away after graduation.  There were letters and visits, but people get busy and it gets harder. Right after the fire, we heard from the wife of John’s best law school buddy.  She had some furniture–including a little girl’s four-poster bed, that she wanted to give us.  The problem was that they live in Nashville (that’s a three hour drive–Tennessee is a long state!).
We were pondering how we might get over there at some point when I got another message.  Laura had decided that she was going to rent a U-Haul and bring the stuff to us herself.  And that is what she did.  With her son’s help, she loaded up one morning, drove to Knoxville all by herself, helped us unload the very nice things she brought and put them in the storage place, gave us some hugs, and then turned around and drove back to Nashville so she would be there in time to pick her kids up from school.
Back when I first got on the internet–maybe 1995–I became involved with the Usenet Newsgroups.  I hung out at misc.kids.pregnancy and misc.kids.breastfeeding for several years, until Lorelei was maybe a year old.  When you spend so much time talking to people, especially when you are in a situation where you have a lot in common and share about things that are important to you, you really start to feel like you know them, that they are not virtual friends, but real friends.
But the newsgroup traffic evaporated, and knowing most people only by their newsgroup aliases, I lost touch with almost everyone.  I would think about the different folks sometimes and wish that I could find them again.  I did hook up with a couple on Facebook, and then one bright mom created a group for us former newsgroup junkies and pretty soon many of us found our way over there.  Now we chat more about big kid issues, but it is still the great community of a bunch of knowledgeable women ready to listen and to offer good advice.
Keep in mind that I don’t know any of these people in person.  We are friends and yet we are strangers in a way–wouldn’t know each other if we passed on the street.  And yet one woman has already sent me a box of her daughter’s very cute clothes that they went through together for Lorelei.  And another is going to send me some things as well.
I graduated from Georgetown in 1989.  I have kept up close friendships with only a very few people, that mostly through Christmas cards and the occasional letter.  And the people I knew best are not very active on Facebook.  So I was very, very excited and touched by what I received in the mail yesterday.  One friend–a housemate my sophomore year–had sent me a very generous gift card.  Another–one of my compatriots from the Liberal Arts Seminar, but who I don’t think I have seen since 1990, except perhaps at reunions–sent TWO BOXES of clothes from New Hampshire.  One of the boxes contained brand new clothes from the Gap and Old Navy, at least one complete outfit for every child left at home.  I was overwhelmed.
Thank you, thank you, everyone.  (Personal notes to come, I swear.) [I never did finish those–it was too much.  I still feel bad about it.] You are keeping us going through all this.  You really are.


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