15-20 years ago I taught a couple of kids. Their mom put together the yearbook. She would oft forget my name and I'm fairly certain it was some time before I knew hers. She called me MusicLady. I called her YearbookLady.
She is an amazing seamstress and one year made me one of those fabric stuffed bears with MusicLady embroidered on it. It's the best teacher gift I'd ever gotten up to and since then.
Kids grow. People do stuff. Facebook happens. I attach myself to the generations of the family, adoring the grandbabies, scolding the grown daughter when she makes fun of her mother, loving each other's pets from a distance and exchanging laughs on bad drivers license pictures and menopause.
Last week she messaged and said "I have some of those giant knitting safety pins from my mother, would you like them?"
She has stitch holders. Not really a hot commodity when they are easily replaced by some extra yarn but still. It was a reaching to be friends gesture. Even more so when instead of dropping them off she invited me to her home to get them.
Today I did that and stayed to chat a while with her and her husband. When you aren't originally from the rural community where you teach, it's easy to feel like an outsider. It takes nearly a full generation of being there and knowing the families before you can really become an actual part of the community.
Zumba at the town hall helps. You also realize that when they say "where do you go to church?" They aren't condemning you when you say you're a heathen. It's just a question that's asked not unlike how many siblings do you have. After about 20 years they see that you're not using their lovely community as a stepping stone for a "better school in town" and you, along with them, believe that you are already at the best job in the county.
I'm not idealizing these little communities. I realize that in some instances these are the WV DJT voters. What I did appreciate today was, as someone who's never really felt like a "fitter inner", every now and then you get a little surprise to find out that there are people who would like to invite you over for dinner some time and you are a part of a whole you hadn't considered. And you find yourself smiling the whole drive home.