It's only 6 miles to the Catholic school, but the Nodlings still ride the Catholic school bus with half a dozen other kids from a 10 mile radius. By definition, this means that they don't ride the public school bus. The other thing they don't do is wait at the public bus stop.
This has a very curious effect on them from an otherwise very pleasant neighborhood: they are somewhat isolated from the other neighborhood kids. They don't have the shared experience of going to the same school, riding the same bus, or standing on the curbside with their peers on a cold January morning.
The bus stop is also where the Moms and occasional Dads are forced to congregate making idle chit chat. It's the place where play dates and casual invitations get made for when Johnny comes home from school or soccer practice lets out. Unless you're otherwise involved in common activities or have the benefit of a tight neighborhood community, you're just another wave-across-the-yard face in a suburban island enclave.
Now there are a lot of great things about Catholic schools and the community they develop. What they lack in convenience, they make up for with depth. Earlier this year, I had the privilege of seeing my eldest son, Wynken, graduate from St. Mary Marvelous. They had a week long graduation celebration the likes of which I have never seen at any level - elementary, high school, or college. Everyone from the Kindergarteners to the eighth graders to the staff to the parents joined in with laughter, tears, reminiscences, and a deep sense of connectedness.
The friendships parents make once they start having children tend to be the parents of their kids' friends. Left to their own devices, kids in a neighborhood will play together in shifting packs that resemble floating crap games with looser rules. Kids are good that way; it's the parents that tend to have the hang-ups. But at the end of the day there is still a little bit of the you-don't-go-to-my-school division even at the kid level.
But that's changing, perhaps by Design. With a Catholic high school tuition being out of our reach (see Forty Percent of Awesome) Wynken is headed to public school. In addition, a new family with 5 kids has just moved in next door. We've only known them a week, but all the Nodlings and the neighbor's kids have flowed back and forth between the two houses non-stop. Woo hoo!
Not only do they have 5 kids, but the ages match up perfectly with the Nodlings. And in a stunner, their oldest is a boy with Asperger's -- just like Wynken -- and they will be going to the same school. As we struggle to deal with our new reality of a boy with social and executive functioning challenges, God has seen fit to put this family in our lives.
How cool is that?