I feel it is important to keep the old neighborhood tradition of families gathering. It is the element that gives a small community feeling to our big city life. For me it is lazy time, embraced within the circle of other mothers, in a spongy—shoed group, keeping a steady eye trained on our kids, we eat, talk, joke, manage the trivia of motherhood together, and move through our afternoon like dancers, stirring to the same rhythm, a safe harbor. The afternoon fades into liquid dusk and moonlight.
Without this group of close-knit friends my kids would have missed out on knowing what it was like having cousins and aunts and uncles living nearby. When our friends-group went camping and my son had grown healthy again after rounds of chemotherapy, and had reached the age that allowed him to be among the older children and teens who sauntered off and played flashlight tag until quite late, nothing made me happier than knowing that this gathering made it possible for him to run with a pack, to attain that brass ring of adolescent acceptance. Yet I suspect his real joy was reading to little kids already tucked into sleeping bags at dusk, then sauntering off with the older kids. Getting to repeat the things that remind my kids of their early childhood, then moving on to the next rank, is an important rite of passage.