I have been a member of many groups and associations in my life- neighborhoods, universities, theatres, choirs… but I have never felt more truly a part of a community as I do now in Salem. This feeling of being included, of belonging, has been coming on gradually since we moved in 2011, but it has been in the forefront of my awareness this month.
My neighborhood, “Gaiety Hill,” a few blocks square, has a Labor Day picnic ‘in the alley’ every year. We were sitting at one end of said alley and I could see this long spread of people gathered to break bread together, laughing, talking, sharing each other’s lives- a group of people who would probably be strangers if not for their choice of house, who have decided to care about one another, look out for one another… it took my breath away. This is my home! These lovely people are our friends, our guardians, our source of information. They gave me a bridal shower, they sent kind words and beautiful flowers when my mother passed away, they even make music with me. I always knew it was a unique, close knit neighborhood since my parents bought our home here in 1991. But as an adult, living here full time, I am in awe of it and blessed to belong.
And then there is Pentacle Theatre. I owe such a debt of gratitude to Robert Salberg who invited me in to this lovely community of actors, singers, musicians- wonderful humans who make theatre for the joy, fun, and art of it. I do remember feeling very attached to my first theatre company in California, but I was so young (9-13), that I didn’t fully appreciate what I had until I didn’t have it anymore. So now that I have that again, I am highly aware and sensible of the honor and privilege to be a part of this company. Being able to do what I love with like-minded individuals while still being able to come back to the comfort of my own home every night… that is happiness.
I never blogged about our wedding (which by the way featured music from BOTH classical and Musical Theatre, since that is my recurring theme) but I felt the prominent stirrings of this special fortune of community there. Of the 100 guests, I would guess about half came from our new lives here in Salem. I loved watching old and new friends mingle and make friendship connections as well. So I guess that is my special, custom-made community!
And yet, so as not to get too saccharine, this closeness is sometimes a double-edged sword. There is no anonymity here. When you screw up, which I unfailingly do at alarmingly regular intervals, everyone knows it. And all I can hope for is forgiveness and second (or third, or…) chances from these same lovely, welcoming people, now no longer strangers, but friends. As I have written about before, when I first moved to New York City, I craved the anonymity the city allows. I liked not knowing the masses of humans that shuttled past me and that they did not know me, enjoyed being able to go about my business unnoticed. But that got old, dangerously isolating and lonely after more than a decade. Now there is warmth and comfort in familiarity and accountability. The innerconnectedness of all things Salem (and its environs) is more fascinating and fun than six degrees of Kevin Bacon.
If I want anonymity, I’ll go to Vegas.
So thank you, Salem. Thank you, friends and neighbors. Thank you, colleagues. I appreciate you more than you can ever know.