When I was younger, I lived what I call an air fern lifestyle. I tried out different lives in different places, never putting down roots. The best part of that period was getting to know wonderful people everywhere I went. The worst part of that period was leaving behind wonderful people every time I left.
But an unexpected thing has happened since we actually put down roots. Two separate sets of people from past lives have settled down within an hour’s drive of us. Last night, the second set of these friends, Sarah & Al, who are both from the East Coast and whom I met in Japan 17 (what?!) years ago, came to dinner. When we first met, we were all single. Last night, they sat with my husband, son and me at our dining room table, accompanied by their three beautiful daughters.
They say you can’t step in the same stream twice. But sometimes life gives you the opportunity to enter downstream waters. And they can be just as sweet.
I should know by now that things never go as I imagine.
Tonight was the primary school open house, and the little guy was our guide. I truly envisioned us popping in, dropping off our pan of brownies, eating a plate of dessert from the “pie potluck,” visiting the little guy’s classroom and going home.
The little guy and I arrived first, and the visiting began immediately. The speech therapist we’ve been working with for three years, the special services coordinator, the physical education teacher (whom the little guy surprised with a body slam).
The big guy arrived, and we picked our plates and picked a table. The woman sitting a ways down from me scooted toward us to introduce herself as our up-the-hill neighbor (she’s seen us standing at the end of our driveway, waiting for the bus; her son divulged that he has watched our son fall asleep across the aisle from him on the bus). Then my guys went over to visit with last year’s soccer coach and family, while I visited with a mother I met on this year’s soccer team. On and on.
Finally, we headed to the little guy’s classroom, where we met a fellow the big guy works with and his family, one of my favorite moms from preschool, and the wife of the little guy’s soccer coach this year. And others. It felt like old home week.
Walking out to the car, the big guy was quiet, offering “That’s neat” as an answer to everything I was sharing with him. Was he listening? I start prodding him: “Hello?”
Turned out he was being reflective. He observed: Here we are in this little town, and suddenly we have all these connections, all these people who are treating us as friends. And it’s all thanks to our little guy.
He was right. I think there are times when parenthood makes you feel as if you’ve given up everything. And there are times it makes you feel as if you’ve gained everything.
Saturday night, some good friends dropped off their two sons, ages 5 and 1, for an overnight visit, so they could go on a date for their anniversary. I wish I had taken a photo of their relaxed, happy faces. They were the picture of joy.
Of course seeing my friends happy brought me joy. They had watched our guy a few weeks ago when we went out, and it felt good to return the favor. But more than that, it was feeling them put their trust in us to care for such a precious part of their life, their children, that not only brought me joy but humbled me.
Driving homeward with my two sweet guys on narrow, winding Highway 14 through the Columbia Gorge during a spectacular sunset while listening to Morten Lauridsen’s “O magnum mysterium” and thinking about all of the wonderful friends we visited over the weekend.
The last time I took a photo like this was probably 1996, when I was preparing to leave my teaching post in Japan. Those photos featured lilies too, and ever since then I have associated lilies with “Sayonara.”
But those lilies were pink, and these are orange, the color of, “Hi, Sweets, I’m home for the weekend!”
The zinnias and dahlias, arrived the next night with neighbors who came to dinner. The next morning, a friend brought the daisies, mums and carnations to breakfast — a belated “happy birthday” wish.