Villages

Is there a better way to kick things off than with a Martie Watts story?

Of course not.

My mom spent a few days in the hospital back in September. She’s totally fine now, but at the time it was kind of like being transported to an alternate reality where everything is uncertain and nobody sleeps and the entire world smells like stale food and bleach.

Post-hospital, when she was settled in at home and we were going to bed for the first time in days, she decided to tell a story. I have no idea what the story was about because I could only think about sleeping. But I did hear the closing line, which was,

“Well, you know what they say. It takes two people to have a village.”

I’m pretty sure what she was going for was either “It takes two to tango” or “It takes a village,” but we got this legendary combo instead and I think it might be one of my favorite things she’s ever said.

Being an only child with parents who don’t have family nearby means I was the only person who showed up for this party at the hospital. And while a lot of people commented on the fact that I was there alone, I never really felt alone. I was surrounded by little villages.

A lot of time at the hospital was shared with my dad. We watched ESPN and The Voice and talked about his one working arm because, as he would soon find out, he needs a full shoulder replacement. But he was there all the same and we were our own little support system, a tiny two-person village.

One morning the lead doctor making rounds was from Botswana. When I told him I had spent some time in Africa, he pulled up a chair and talked with me for a full hour about African culture and politics. (Sorry, every other patient on our floor.) Engaging in a life-outside-this-hospital conversation was a gift, a little village that offered some shelter.

Jaclyn, one of my best friends from high school, dropped off dinner and cookies and a homemade get well card from her incredibly thoughtful four-year-old one night. We sat in the living room at my parents’ house just like we did when my dad was unexpectedly in the hospital a few years back. We’ve been this kind of village for each other since we were 14 years old.

There are a thousand “if’s” that might have made things easier—if I had a husband, if I had siblings, if my parents lived closer to my not-tiny village of friends in Harrisburg or limitless extended family members in Pennsylvania. And I was 100% thinking about all of those things in my more desperate moments.

But I’m starting to see the magic of the two-person village, because that’s really all it takes. I can look at my life as a single 30-something only child who didn’t grow up around family—a description that sounds isolating and kind of sad—and see a jillion villages. If I look at my life like a landscape, these tiny villages cover everything in sight.

Which brings me to why I wanted to talk about this first. Because this website has not yet spread to every corner of the internet, there’s probably a good chance you and I know each other in real life. And I want you to know from the very beginning that you showing up here matters to me.

It’s easy to look at any online endeavor from a numbers perspective—how many followers? how many subscribers? how many likes? It’s normal now to do this weird thing where we judge the value of something based on how many fake internet points it receives. Lots of points? Must be pretty good. Not a lot of points? Must not be worth very much.

But here you are. And here I am. And we’re running a slant on this whole numbers game, because we get to be our own little village.

And I think that’s worth plenty.

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