The other evening I had dinner with my husband and daughter at Lucky's, the good old standby Chinese restaurant in the Oakland Mills Village Center. We've been going there since our teen was a little girl, although more often for takeout than eat-in. It seems that most people are like that. It's rare to see a lot of customers dining on the premises, but you always see a steady stream of food pick-ups while you are there.
The waitress knows us well enough that she was surprised when my husband ordered won ton soup instead of his usual hot and sour. She was concerned that my daughter didn't eat much of her food and didn't want to take it home. Did she not like it? Was there something wrong with the food? (There wasn't, it was just a little spicier than she had anticipated when she tried something she hadn't ordered before.)
Outside the window three teens went by on their bikes. On the sidewalk. Doing wheelies. Showing off. After that I saw something scurry by at ground level. What was it? A small animal?
It moved last again. Zoomed, really. I could see now that it was a remote control car, whizzing back and forth, in and out of my view. Eventually its owner turned up, a man who looked to be in his twenties. He stepped out into the parking lot and he and his zipping vehicle continued their journey out there.
I shook my head a little. Some nights are like that in my village center. Bikes on the sidewalk, a remote control car in the road. Some people say that shows there's something wrong, that we're in a state of decay. I don't know. Everyone in the picture is a part of my village. They may not always be like me, but I'm not afraid of them.
When we paid our tab and left the restaurant we saw a young man my daughter was in kindergarten with walk up and start talking to one of the bicyclists. It was a warm summer evening and people were out and about, picking up dry cleaning, a six pack of beer, some groceries. There were a good number of cars in the parking lot.
I guess there are some people who look at this scene and see disruption, disrespect, and decay. I don't. It doesn't always function like the white middle class suburban world of my childhood, but that doesn't make it wrong. It doesn't mean that we should automatically be fearful.
I love Oakland Mills in all its off-beat, diverse, make-do-with-what-we've-got splendor. I don't need to make it look more like me. In fact, I benefit from all the ways I can participate in experiences that are different.
What's going on in your Village?