If someone had looked into my Introductory Algebra class the other day, they would have seen me stand in front of the class, look to the back wall, and then turn to my right 360 degrees. I explained to my students that what I had done is return to my original position, back to where I started. This was an attempt to illustrate the concept of an “identity” element in multiplication and addition, one of several concepts that show up in almost every class that has the word “algebra” in its title, from Introductory Algebra to Abstract Algebra. However, it is not the identity concept that I have been thinking of recently, but the idea of terms being able to “commute”, or change order, switching their location without affecting the resulting sum or product. I am thinking of this lately because, as the summer winds down, some of the most beloved members of our neighborhood are preparing to move away from us.
I first met them when my daughter was riding backwards in my back seat and I saw the mom, now a dear friend, holding a baby only a few months younger than my daughter. When I saw a fellow mother holding her young son, I stopped the car to ask her how she was doing. “Fine” she said, although I learned later that she, in those early days of parenting, was not really sure at that point whether it was daytime or night. We soon became good friends as our children grew through babyhood and toddlerhood together.
Once, when her husband saw my daughter toddling around near her son, he said to the little boy “there is your prom date, “Joe”. We all laughed.
My daughter and their oldest son became best of friends, playing T-ball, climbing trees and digging for worms together despite the outward dainty appearance that my daughter projected. Soon, a younger son joined them, one who adored my daughter and would call her name whenever he saw her from across the street. With his arrival, they expected that their family was complete. Their mom would often swoon over my daughter long, curly hair and say that she wished she had girl’s hair to play with.
Alas, that was not to be, as they had two sons who filled their home to the brim.
Their family became leaders in the neighborhood, a neighborhood that is already a gem and something that one does not often find these days. The kids in the neighborhood play together, with teenagers looking out for younger children, all wandering from house to house and often eating at each other’s homes when there is extra food to share. One of the favorite things for this family to do was to plan a “bike parade” for the Fourth of July, in which children decorate their bikes and then drive along a set route, led by a fire truck and ambulance with their sirens on. Big kids ride on bikes, little kids on tricycles and babies ride in strollers, being pushed by parents. At the end of the parade is a driveway filled with treats.
Both parents in that home are nurses, so they became important resources for the neighborhood as children scraped knees and bumped heads. They shared information with me as my sister’s health declined, assisted my father when the long ride to Cleveland led to health concerns while visiting one year, and shared advice about how to talk to our children about growing up. And then, three years ago, the impossible happened, and a family with two boys became a family with two boys and one adorable little girl, complete with curly hair. Finally, the mom had hair to comb and style! However, this meant that they were now overflowing in their home, and would need to move eventually. This summer, “eventually” came, and a “For Sale” sign has gone up on the front lawn of the home that has been the center of our amazing neighborhood. There is still part of me that hopes it will not happen.
And so, I want to ask my readers, do any of you have any suggestions for helping me prepare my daughter (and me!) for having her best friends, the closets things to siblings she has, move away? While there will probably be a few more months of running in and out of each other’s homes before any sale is final, I think we all know that this will happen eventually. We will miss them desperately.
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