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|Craig Kelley for Cambridge City Council in 2015|
|Because Neighborhoods Count|
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. . . give thanks for having found just such a village . . .
A neighborhood responds when needed most
The new baby arrives and the car is gone
Just over three months ago, my wife, Hope, our two-year old son, Robbie, and I welcomed the newest addition to the Kelley family: Cooper Charleson. In addition to blessing us with another child, Cooper's birth gave us reason to feel especially fortunate to live where we do, in the heart of North Cambridge.
When we found out Hope was going to give birth via C-section the next day, a week earlier than we had expected, Hope and I were both scared and excited. I met her and Robbie at a local playground on my way home from work to finalize plans for the big event. Who would pick Robbie up from pre-school, when he would come to the hospital, etc. An hour later, I left to run an errand and found, much to my surprise, that my car was missing. I ran up and down Norris Street, thinking perhaps that, in the excitement of expectant fatherhood, I had forgotten where I had parked. My efforts were to no avail. My car, with my computer and address book in it, was gone.
With a heavy heart, I went back to the playground. I know this is a terrible time to tell you this, I explained to Hope, but I think my car's been stolen. With Robbie in tow, Hope rushed out to check the street. The car was still gone.
Friends help out
Fortunately, and this is where our good fortune in living where we do started that evening, a friend of ours who lives near the park walked by. She immediately let me into her house to call the police who, much to my relief, told me that my car had not been stolen. It had been towed. (There is, in fact, a handicapped parking spot on Norris Street and I have learned to look more closely at Cambridge's forest of parking signs.)
Hope and I decided that I would pick up the car, along with the computer and address book, after dinner, when she and Robbie had gone to bed. If only it had been that simple. Shortly after getting home, while I was making dinner, Hope went into labor.
We called my mom, who said she'd be in as soon as possible to watch Robbie in case we had to go to the hospital that night. That still left us with a towed car to pick up somehow. Fortunately, our second call to neighborhood friends was picked up by a person, not an answering machine, and Joe Joseph and Lisa Birk said they'd be right over. When they arrived, Joe ran me to the tow yard to get my car while Lisa stayed to help Hope prepare for what was increasingly becoming an exciting evening. By the time we returned (forty bucks poorer), my mom had arrived and Hope's contractions were so close together that the Ob-Gyn told us to come to the hospital. Joe and Lisa played taxi again, giving us door to door service to Mass General Hospital, where, within minutes, Hope was being prepped for an emergency c-section. Less than an hour later, Cooper came into this world.
The help continues
On the home front, my mom watched Robbie for the next few days as I bounced between home, MGH and work. Like an extended family, neighborhood friends brought over food and helped take care of Robbie from time to time, giving my mother some much needed breaks in caring for our young bundle of energy. And even after Hope and Cooper came home, the gifts and food continued in a steady stream, filling us with wonder at all the love in our neighborhood.
The depth of our neighborhood's wonderful soul became still clearer a few weeks later, when I went to Washington, DC for a Marine Corps buddy's wedding. While I was gone, Cooper began to run a fever and Hope took him to Children's Hospital for what she thought would be a few tests. Fortunately, one of our neighbors volunteered to watch Robbie while Hope and Cooper were gone. Unfortunately, instead of running a few tests and sending Cooper home, the hospital admitted him for forty-eight hours, leaving Hope in a quandary. With me out of town and unable to get in touch with my parents, how would she ensure someone was taking care of Robbie?
Once more, our neighbors stepped into the breach. It would be no problem, our friends said, to keep Robbie overnight. The following morning, they passed the "Rooster" to another set of friends, who took our son to Quaker meeting with them. Eventually I returned from DC, caught up with Robbie and took him to visit his mother and younger brother. In addition to the relief I felt when I learned Cooper was fine, I was, and still am, thrilled with how thoroughly the neighborhood network had provided my family with a much needed safety net (not even counting the zillion messages of concern and offers of help on our answering machine).
People frequently say that it takes a village to raise a child. Hope and I and our two sons give thanks for having found just such a village.