Sunday, March 12, 2006

In the Company of Company
On Becoming Grown-ups, Socially Speaking 

We've never been the social type, though I can certainly hold my own as host or jester.

We've been in Monson six months, and we're pretty much unknown here. We go to church, and find friendly faces, but the congregation is too small for us to find families compatible with ours.

The neighbors have no kids, and seem older, established; though old friends and ex-coworkers Seth and Lynn and their daughter Arwen came down for a supper and playdate a few months ago, the old school is too far for us to really sustain those connections.

So last week, when Darcie asked to invite Michelle and her family over for a get-acquainted supper, it was a pretty big step.

Darcie had met her through the neighborhood preschool pals group, so we knew the kids were compatible. I'd never met any of them, but Steve's a school principal, which would give us plenty to talk about.

Still, I think we exceeded our expectations. Their kids are six and four, but Willow held her own, leading them in mysterious play just around the corner, topped off with a full-tilt parade of drum and fife that drowned out all adult conversation. In turn, Cassia impressed us all by choosing tonight to really walk, with confidence, across the playroom and back again.

Everyone connected, I think. We had plenty to chat about as we got to know each other, and our families.

Now, after a whirlwind three hours, our house seems especially quiet.

Back in the boarding school world, the companionship of other families was part of the fabric of life. From classroom hallway passage to dining hall suppers, the line between family and community blurred comfortably throughout the school year, almost to a fault. Our kids played together; we sat with whomever we found at the table in the dining hall.

Communal playgrounds and laundry rooms, and a shared sense of daily purpose kept us close acquaintences. It was more work to find a bit of private time than a drinking partner after hours; that we all tended to hide out in our own homes on long kid-bereft weekends says what it should. But overall, the commune life was more sweet than sour.

When it all crashed down in the cutbacks, I remember being sadder about my daughter's pending loss than my own. That shared playspace between houses was something special, and I doubt we'll even find anything like it.

So it was especially wonderful to see her playing so nicely, so gently, so gleefully with Liam and Lily tonight.

Of course, it was equally nice to feel like normal adults for an evening: drinks in the living room, small talk over supper, all the while keeping an ear out for the kids. Had much in common with Michelle, plenty to share with Steve, and the coparenting seemed natural.

Looking forward to another go-round, though not too soon. After all, we came to the woods on purpose: I wouldn't want to lose that family bond, nor the quiet togetherness that made us whole in the first place, and regenerates us every day.

I miss the boarding community, in part because of how easily it felt like one big happy, hard to escape, always there. But after seven years of it and six months distance, I guess I'm growing to see the benefit of choosing one's own. How funny to be so late in life, and only now begin the work of finding friendships.

We'll have Steve and Michelle back again, for sure, and make it to their house when their kitchen renovation is complete. In the meanwhile, there's room for more, enough to make a backyard barbecue one day, once the yard grows in from the leechfield reseeding. Let the interviews begin.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:06 PM |

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