Community At Last

 
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Malibu is a gorgeous paradise.  Nature is everywhere, and seeing the ocean everyday is incredible.  It seems like everyone who has raised kids here loves it and those who grew up here say it’s the best place in the world. 

But something has felt off since we moved from Venice nearly 4 years ago.  I miss being able to leave my front door and walk to a variety of restaurants just minutes away.  I miss getting lost in the Canals at dusk with Mark and Dixon.  I miss being only an hour from Disneyland and 20 minutes from the airport.  And most importantly, I miss our old friends.  I miss how they could swing by with ease – planning weeks in advance wasn’t necessary.

I’ve been wistful about the amazing parts of our old neighborhood… but this Memorial Day weekend something changed.

Our calendar was filled with all-local events.  It started with a first birthday party for Wesley’s friend.  After entering the yard, it was heartening to see that it was filled with familiar faces.  Wes’ buddy that he’s known since they were rolling around on the floor at eight weeks old, another little guy who lives minutes away from us, a few of his friends from our Wednesday mommy and me music sessions, and their parents, who have become the heart of Malibu for me.  It didn’t stop there – there were others we knew, that we have seen at local parks, or share mutual friends.  I got that warm and cozy feeling I get when I see close family members. 

Our kids dipped their hands in the pond, climbed up a steep part of the yard to visit the chicken coop, ran in and out of tree houses, ate cake together (well, Wes didn’t and he doesn’t know what he’s missing), and ran amok among a young crowd of warm and inviting locals.  Saying bye to my close mom-friends felt like saying goodbye to my sister – a familiarity and warmth, and a feeling of “I wish there was more time.”

A text came in from one mom later that night, expressing how nice it was to see our little guys running around, growing up together.  I sent bursting heart emjois and similar sentiments in return. 

The next day we went to a concert at another friend’s house.  Turning off of PCH, we went up a windy road to what felt like the top of the world.  Moments after entering the backyard, I saw my dear mom-friend.  This was our second event together in two days – the familiarity was heartwarming.  Wes headed straight for the dance floor to watch the band, and insisted on staying there until it was time to go home.  We all hung out near the dance floor throughout most of the event, laughed about our kiddos’ dancing skills and their serious interest in the music.  Seeing this family two days in a row at another local gathering created a familiar warm feeling…

While walking them to their car at the end of the event, I realized what that familiar feeling was.  It was a sense of community – something which I had longed for and didn’t fully feel in Malibu until that weekend.  And it feels like it has grown exponentially since then.

We ended Memorial Day weekend with a small BBQ with Mark’s best friends, their wives whom I’ve become close with, and a few local mom and dad friends.  We spent the day under the sun, in our pool, and playing on the grass.  We ran after our toddlers barefoot and in swimsuits.  The party went from 1pm until 11pm, in classic “Mark and Jess” style, an all day event. 

There we all were, old and new friendships.  My heart was full from having the two groups mix… Seeing how our friendships have grown and evolved, and imagining what our lives will look like years from now, when we’re celebrating 5th, 10th, 16th and so on birthdays… When my old friends have little ones running around the yard one day, too.  I realized in that moment, that I don’t need to be 20 minutes from the airport or an hour closer to Disneyland.  I need my people… The old friends I love and adore, and the new friends I love and adore, who will one day become old friends as we continue to root ourselves here. 

From having an extra set of loving hands to help with dinner and bedtime, to cuddling with our toddlers having heart to hearts in the movie room, these interactions fill me up.  The night ended with big hugs and later, text messages about how lovely the day was, expressing gratitude for our friendships.

I will always have fond memories living in Venice.  It was where I first fell in love with Mark.  Where I said goodbye to my 18-year-old kitty, Silkey, who was part of my family since I was eleven.  Where we decorated the Christmas tree in the dark during a power outage, listening to Nat King Cole on our phones.  Where we started our Family 1.0.  As I think back about my favorite and most sentimental moments in my life, it is the people – and the animals – that have made me feel so full of love I could burst.  Everything else is a bonus. 

While we don’t have the Venice Canals and restaurants within walking distance, we are finding equally fulfilling experiences as Family 2.0 with the addition of Wes, Dobby, and Figaro: Walking on the beach with Dixon and Dobby, Wes totally covered in sand, Mark spotting a baby starfish, social gatherings with loved ones lasting all day, old friendships lasting the test of geography (I know Malibu is a “trek”), new blossoming friendships... I once told Mark that I could live anywhere in the world, as long as I had him, and our fur babies.  I will no doubt look back at these times, with a full heart and wishing I could experience them all over again.  So whenever I’m feeling wistful about the past, I gently remind myself to be present and appreciate what I have now, while I have it.  Because this life is pretty spectacular.