Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. Community
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"Hi," she said. "I'm Nancy Wheeler. The real estate agent sent out a sheet on you. So I know you're Margaret and you're in sixth grade. So am I."
I wondered what else she knew. (2.2-3)
We're pretty sure real estate agents don't do this anymore… which is good, because it's kind of creepy.
Nancy lives six houses away, also on Morningbird Lane. Her house looks like mine but the brick is painted white and the front door and shutters are red. (2.20)
This sounds pretty idyllic, right? A BFF right down the street… someone's livin' the American dream.
"How nice. Please tell your mother I'm looking forward to meeting her. We've got a Morningbird Lane bowling team on Mondays and a bridge game every other Thursday afternoon and a…"
"Oh, I don't think my mother knows how to bowl and she wouldn't be interested in bridge. She paints most of the day," I explained. (2.77-78)
So Margaret's parents are the ones who wanted to move—but it doesn't seem like they're really the bowling team/carpool/bridge playing types, and it seems hard to integrate into the Farbrook community if you don't do these things.
"Tell your mother we're making our car pools early this year. We'd be happy to help her arrange hers… especially Sunday school. That's always the biggest problem."
"I don't go to Sunday school."
"Lucky!" Nancy shouted.
"Nancy, please!" Mrs. Wheeler said. (2.83-88)
That's right Margaret, make waves right away—it's important to keep things interesting. Especially on a street where all the houses look the same.
"But if you aren't any religion, how are you going to know if you should join the Y or the Jewish Community Center?" Janie asked.
"I don't know," I said. "I never thought about it. Maybe we won't join either one."
"But everybody belongs to one or another," Nancy said. (5.74-76)
So instead of just being another part of her life the way it was in New York—like the fact that she's right handed or can raise her eyebrow—not having a religion is threatening Margaret's entire sense of community now.
If I could figure out which religion to be I'd know if I wanted to join the Y or the Jewish Community Center. That was meaningful, wasn't it? I'd have to think about it. (8.3)
Is it meaningful? Why or why not?
The Four PTS's squeezed into the back seat of the Wheeler car (not the station wagon). Nancy's father told us it was silly to sit like that and besides it made him feel like a hired chauffeur. But all we did was giggle. (14.4)
That's what it's all about, right? Making Dad look silly—no matter where you live.
I went to Christmas Eve services with the Wheelers at the United Methodist Church of Farbrook. I asked Nancy if I had to meet the minister.
"Are you kidding!" she said. "The place will be mobbed. He doesn't even know my name." (15.1-2)
Not all churches are the same, and they come in all different sizes. Do you think Margaret would prefer a church where the minister would know her name? Why?
We have discussed this situation with our minister and dear friend, Revered Baylor. You remember him dear, don't you. My goodness, he christened you when you were a tiny baby. (20.15)
The thing about community is that you can't really force it, though Grandma Hutchins definitely seems to be trying to a bit here with Margaret's mom.
I was through with him and his religions! And I was never going to set foot in the Y or the Jewish Community Center—never. (21.27)
We've talked about this passage a lot (check out the "What's Up With The Title?" section), but here we wonder what sort of community Margaret risks losing by swearing off God and religion. Do you think this hurts her quest for community or helps?
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