We all know the old saying “It takes a village,” usually said in regard to raising children, the support and the diversity of influences a kid needs to grow up and become a nice, well-rounded adult human being.

I was raised in a little village of my own, so I never doubted the theory. When I was growing up in this wild place, the people on the farmsteads surrounding us, some miles down the road, became more than just neighbors. They acted as teachers and rescuers, offered an egg or two when you were in a pinch. They were babysitters, a branding crew and Thanksgiving guests. They brought a casserole for a party, borrowed piece of equipment and shared a cup of coffee on Sunday morning to catch up.

When we were kids these neighbors meant doors were open and green Kool-Aid was available when we finally made it over on our bikes, sweaty and sticky from the summer sun. These neighbors were an extension of our parents. We could rely on them to take care of us, teach us things and love us for the weird little wild-haired humans we were becoming.

In our village we had professional horse trainers who taught us how to maneuver barrel patterns on our old ranch horses and gave us the confidence to compete in high school rodeos. We had the older neighbor boy who showed us the rules of football by setting up a game in the backyard – him against five little neighbor girls.

We had a gardener with a giant plot who let us help dig potatoes, water, weed and eat the peas right off the vine.

We had a mechanic who, when I was a teenager just starting to drive my parents’ mini-van, fixed my air-conditioning issue by simply and quietly pressing the little button with the snowflake on it.

In the early years of our lives there were the grammas, the ones who would buy into my older sister’s story of a stomachache on the bus ride to kindergarten, becoming her go-to layover for hot chocolate while she waited for our parents to come and pick her up.

And then there was my best friend’s house where I spent many summer afternoons and evenings after school, making up recipes in the kitchen or learning how to make Serbian pancakes, suet pudding, or homemade caramels and hard candy.

Reaching into my memory I could call up thousands of moments when I was given little lessons, little pieces of these extraordinary, ordinary people to take with me as I grew up. They made me a little better, a little happier, a little more capable, proving the importance of that village thing over and over again.

A few weeks ago our littlest neighbor girl got married in a church in our hometown. Maybe that’s why I’m thinking of our village today. Because some things have changed since we were playing football with the neighbor boy in the back yard. Time kept ticking. We grew up. Some of us moved away.

But in our hometown, in a gym decorated with candles and curtains, we cut cake, poured drinks and bounced babies on our knees. And then the band started playing, and I looked out at that blond-haired woman, the little girl I remember helping teach some of her first words, as she swayed in a white dress with her new groom in the middle of a sea of faces that were the most familiar to me in the world.

And it occurred to me then, looking around at the chatter and the laughter, that the whole village theory doesn’t stop at childhood. That village follows us and holds us and continues to teach us things about what it means to learn and love and rely on one another.

So when the lights went up at midnight and the band started packing up equipment, I lingered a little longer to blow out candles and put away chairs, pull table cloths and unplug lights. Because, even after all these years, it takes a village, and this is mine.

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