My son is 15 years old, and everyday I think about how lucky I am to have such a unique child in my life who brings me joy. But like many parents, I always wonder how I’m doing in the world of parenting. Right now, however, I’ve been thinking more about community and creating that for my son.
I grew up in the Canal Zone in the Republic of Panama. It was an amazing experience.
On the Atlantic Side of the canal, all the towns were small, each had an elementary school, a movie theater and if you were lucky, a few extras like a shop and a roller-skating rink. Being provided that small-town experience had its advantages. Adults in the community, no matter where we were, knew my mother, which made it difficult to get into trouble, no matter how hard any of us tried.
But it was how the community came together for holiday events, like the annual Christmas-tree burning, that made growing up in these communities even more special.
In an urban setting like Tucson and our surrounding communities, how do I create that? This month we tried something knew. We decided to invite more people to our dinner table in our tiny kitchen. Luckily my table fits six people. It’s the start of a new tradition—a good home cooked meal, good conversation with our friends, a chance to invite new people we never get to visit with so we can expand our community and the best part, sitting at the table long after desert to trade stories and get to know one another better.
We are turning this into a monthly event for now, maybe we can do it more often in the spring and summer. I love sharing food with friends and family. I love taking the time in our busy schedules to actually talk to each other beyond social media. I want my son to actually know people in our community, not to keep him out of trouble (he’s a good, good kid, anyway), but to know there are people in our little backyard here that we care about and there are lessons that come with that care.
I admit I haven’t always been good at showing that with friends in the past, so this is a chance to teach ourselves and teach my son. At least this something I can agree with that begins at home—community and how care for it—over plates of food, elbows touching, in my tiny kitchen.