It’s quarter to one and I have just finished a school board meeting at which many of the combatants (not sure I can call them simply “board members”) lobbed thinly disguised brickbats at each other once again.One of them, thoughtfully wrapped in Polly Weand’s velvety smile, was aimed at me, but that’s OK I have a hard head, thick skin and a layer of, let’s call it “insulation,” underneath that prevents most damage from that sort of thing. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about, at least not directly.
I’ve known Teri and Alan peripherally, as I do a lot of people in Pottstown, as “those nice folks who bought that nice house at Chestnut and York;” Alan more specifically as the man who set up a toy train set in his yard for the holiday house tour a few years ago.Like me, he’s from the east side of the Hudson in upstate, NY, so he must be alright.I saw Teri’s announcement about her blog about family life, as well as her announcement about their newest addition (congrats) on Facebook and I thought “well that’s nice, but when is she ever going to find the time to maintain this? Two kids is a lot of work.”
The thought passed and my attention moved on. Then I saw the both of them when they visited The Mercury for one of Sue Repko’s Positively Pottstown happy hours.I admit, it is the only one I have attended, but I just had to walk down the stairs and they had beer and wine! In my building! How could I not go? But, to be fair to me, most are on Friday when I am writing for Saturday, Sunday and Monday so taking an hour (or three) off to hang out would interfere with what family time and I can carve out of a very fluid schedule.
Which brings me back to the subject; I saw Teri across the room and it hit me. The solution for maintaining her blog is to invite others to contribute to it and help “feed the beast” as some of us call the empty page.I shared this idea with her and, with a few cups of vino from Cupcake Vineyards in me (good stuff by the way) heard myself volunteering to provide one. So here we are.
It’s not such a strange thing, actually, because some thoughts along the same line had been burbling in my brain since the weekend before, much of which I spent at Novak field.It was there that my son was participating in what may well be the end of a not terribly promising baseball career. He’s a good kid, chin up, tries hard, but I don’t expect a call from a Phillies recruiter any time soon. Anyway, during the three days of games that led up to the finals I had, whether volunteering in the snack bar, visiting the opposition’s stands to chat with friends, or just standing there looking stupid, talked to a lot of people.
Refreshingly, none of them were school board members, borough councilmen, mayors or “officials” of any sort, with the exception of a long and largely one-sided conversation with Aram Ecker (is there any other kind?) who is a member of the borough authority as well as of Rick Huss’s Task Force.Nope, at Novak, everyone was just neighbors, coaches, umpires, parents and families. Some, I know, support one (what shall I call it?) school of thought on some issues, others the opposite. Most are just trying to figure out what works best for their kid(s).
I realized that the issues on which I spend so much of my professional life (and, sadly personal life) were not front and center for the majority of the people there that night. Sure, they’re interested, but it’s just one of several balls they’re trying to keep in the air. They’re also trying to schedule meets and games that don’t conflict with rehearsals or recitals. They’re not wedded to how many elementary schools we have, or whether the mayor overstepped her bounds. They’re focused on their lives and on raising their families.We’ve spent a lot of time at Novak during what I’ll call the Little League years and I am, frankly, amazed at what a great facility it is; lights, press box, dug-outs, electronic score board.My son was thrilled to make his way into the press box the other night and announce the players.
Where I grew up, we were lucky if the benches were long enough to hold both teams, and that was in the second most affluent county in the country.And as I watched everyone joke and get along, despite whatever political or other disagreements they might have, I thought about what makes Pottstown, Pottstown.I’m not trying to blow sunshine anywhere you don’t want it blown.I know Little League can be almost as much of a hotbed of saucy conflict as our school board or borough council — the difference being Little League still manages to get things done.
As I looked around at adults standing in the light rain that was beginning to fall, watched my son run rampant around the place playing “pickle” with kids he had known since t-ball, or just met this year, I smiled and thought, “I’m glad I live here.”The next morning, I accepted the invitation of a man I greatly admire, the Rev. Vernon Ross over at Bethel AME Church. I admire him because I respect his views of organized religion even as he respects my doubts about it.(He makes a good case by the way, and might convince me one day.)I was there, attending services to shoot video of a little girl who will be touring with Disney’s production of “The Lion King.”And holy mackerel can she sing.
Later in the day, I attended a rally in Phoenixville for a girl diagnosed with a rapidly spreading cancer. As I looked at the crowd, I thought, “many of these people have never met before.”And again, as one of the speakers talked about what a community does, I, not surprisingly, thought at what a community is and what it does.“We ask, ‘what can we do?’” the speaker said.And again I thought about it.What makes a community work?The answer, I think, is as different in the SoHo section of Manhattan, as it is in South Philly as it is where I live, in the “numbered streets” of Pottstown.
But the things they have in common are tolerance, sometimes grudgingly offered, for the views of others; a common experience, be it the same school or the same baseball team; and a sense that we’re all in this together, for better or worse.The community is there to applaud when the little girl sings in The Lion King, and there for support when another little girl and her family grapples with the horrors of cancer.And lastly, a community is a place where you want to raise a family.I’m raising mine here.It’s not paradise, but we could do a lot worse.
If you want it to be better, you have to work to make it better, and sometimes you have to accept other people’s ideas in the hopes they may accept some of yours!
Although sometimes the headlines (at times written by me) might make it seem that Pottstown doesn’t have those things, I would say to you, go to Novak, go to Bethel AME, go to the YMCA, the YWCA, the Ricketts Center; go to a school concert, a play at Tri-PAC or events downtown at Christmas time, and tell me those people don’t care about their town, their children and, ultimately, each other.
I’ll call you a liar!