In Praise of My Friends and Sister Hands

When my three kids were growing up we began gathering weekly with other families. In the winter we took turns meeting at each other’s homes for potluck dinners, and in the summer we met every Thursday at sunset for picnic dinners at the park. We had frequent Saturday swim parties, and twice a year we all camped together at the beach, or along the river at Sage Hill.

With a few mother's banning together to do the planning and hosting but letting burdensome details fall, away allowed everyone to share in the joy of the day. Often I was willing to float those friends whose presence I enjoyed, overlooking the fact that their lives were always too busy to host. For me the heart of the matter was the years when my son had cancer and I couldn’t stretch wide enough to cover all that needed doing. My friends did my share of the work. Now I give too many favors, knowing one day I may again need to join those who float.

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. 

We need a community of close friends to grow, laugh, cope, deal and celebrate with. Over the past 30 years a number of us have become extended family to each other. A single bracelet does not jangle; the connectedness we have to each other is so much a part of our lives, it can’t be distinguished from our lives. It’s apparent in the emails we send each other full of the schedules we make, and the routine of the phone messages we leave each other. Our lives are braided as we walk the same sidewalks, bring food when there is a death, and watch each other’s children and grandchildren grow. My heart fills when we gather, knowing it will permeate my body and cling to my soul as a reminder once I leave the circle, of what I can feel so clearly when we are all together.

© 2012 Terra Trevor. All rights reserved.
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