Friday, April 17, 2009

It's Richmond, Baby...

Yesterday, I spent six hours waiting on line in the spring sun. I've managed to make it this long in my life without ever intentionally waiting this long for anything — not concert tickets, not the New York DMV, not people. But yesterday was the registration day for the Richmond Parks and Recreation summer camp program. The city offers a good enough deal to make even the sanest of us take a half day off work to be the first on line, or at least to get there in time to make the cut for the program.

They take between 60 and 85 kids, depending on the program. Thankfully, I got there in time to ensure that Banana was #25 — though thanks to a couple line-jumpers she was #30 by the time registration started. The line continued to form through the early afternoon until people started counting to see if they needed to wait. Most left, perhaps to go to another community center. Those that stayed ended up at a loss anyway, because the line was cut in half as they let us in to register.

In the end, I'd say the scene was pure Richmond. Several of the parents knew each other and we passed the afternoon chatting rather than reading the books we'd all brought. To make it even more a solidly "Richmond" scene, many of us who didn't know each other before yesterday had friends or colleagues in common. We'd lived on the same streets, knew the same people. As much as I used to describe New York as the biggest small town in the world, Richmond has defied my sense of what a small, close-knit community within a city can be. It's both endearing and frightening at the same time, creating a sense of home that I sometimes ran from but find myself now embracing.

To a certain extent, I suppose yesterday's waiting was one more validation of that. Certainly, paying a fraction of the cost of private summer camps was a motivator, but as the afternoon wore on, what I truly appreciated was the utter feeling of community, the sense that Banana would spend the summer with friends, and that our network had deepened just a little more.