The Gathering

They all start to arrive and with each person stepping through the door, I feel the house filling up with warmth and life. It's a beautiful thing, really. Hugs and laughter set the scene for an evening filled with beloved friends, good food, and discussions ranging from reminiscing over shared memories to hopes and dreams for the future. 

Our group - our tribe - started out much smaller, now over a decade ago. Brought together by nothing more average than college, we formed a small band and stuck by each other through the ups and downs of music theory homework, final exams, new relationships, breakups, and the day to day events of sharing an apartment.

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Slowly, as the years went by, the group started expanding. First with boyfriends that were more permanent than the college flings, then fianc├ęs, then husbands. In more recent years, we've added babies to the mix, and at this point we've run out of chairs around the dinner table and have started supplementing with folding chairs, high chairs, and Bumbo seats. And while we fill up the seats, we continue to fill up our memory tanks, drop by drop.

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And tonight, we're celebrating. I sit at the overfilled table and am filled with both gratitude and nostalgia. I have dear memories from my own childhood of our living room filled with a host of our parents, the rest of the house spilling over with children playing house, or post office, or my personal favorite - moving truck. I'm not sure our parents appreciated that one as much as we did, since it involved wrapping almost every toy in the house in packing paper, but our imaginations ran wild, set to a musical backdrop of folk tunes.

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I remember feeling a sense of fullness as a child. We knew these were friends, of course, but they felt more like family, and we experienced the deep richness of being surrounded by so many of those who loved and cared for us.

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We're on the flip side now. We are the adults/parents, sitting and delighting in sharing life together through the more significant ups and downs that naturally occur as we mature, and we're watching our children create their own memories as a group. While the background music might be different - our musical skills lie more along the classical lines than folk - these beloved children now have their own cloud of witnesses celebrating their existence, rejoicing in their accomplishments, and tending to their growth.

The sense of fullness is still there for me, but has a different flavor. Perhaps a richer one, now that we all have a different perspective. More responsibility, more joy. 

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Four Years

Four years ago today, Chaz and I were hosting a Friday night dinner party. We weren't dating, but we had started spending much more time around each other over the preceding three weeks, so I guess you could say that we both knew something was up. We had gone grocery shopping the night before - green and red peppers, alfredo sauce, chicken, noodles, and enough apple crisp materials to feed a crowd of seven. We talked as we prepared the food. He told me about a childhood house fire, and I told him about traveling with various musical ensembles. (The house fire was a far more interesting story than the traveling.)

People started to arrive as we were finishing up the cooking around 7:00. We sat down at the table to eat, and I remember thinking that I was disappointed with the flavor of the alfredo stir fry. It was too watery, but I knew I could make up for it with the apple crisp. After dinner, we played some ping pong and explored the house (setting: house-sitting for our boss), and people started to trickle out around 10:00. 

Eventually, we were the only ones left, facing a pile of dirty dishes and pots and pans in the sink. Our conversation finally got to a point where we could not longer avoid the giant question hanging over our heads, so we sat down on the couch and started talking in earnest.

After two hours, we had talked our way through a year and a half of confusion, a week of reintroduction, and two weeks of spending time together. He told me how he felt, but in an act of unmerited graciousness, he left the final decision up to me. And in my typical ultra-practical, not particularly romantic manner, I responded, "Well, we went to Ikea together last week by ourselves. I'm pretty sure that was a date. And then we went grocery shopping together by ourselves yesterday, and I'm pretty sure that was a date too. So we might as well admit that we're dating." And that was that. 

We didn't tell anyone right away (with the exception of my best friend, who got a voicemail at two in the morning when I was driving home, which explains why we're friends, and my mom the next morning, since I didn't want to freak her out by calling in the middle of the night), but a week or two later we acquired matching sunburns as the result of a kayaking trip and the secret was out. 

 Kayak trip selfie

Kayak trip selfie

I even took a picture of the sunburn for my mom.

 This is why I now wear SPF 100.

This is why I now wear SPF 100.

And four years later, I can safely say that saying yes that night was the best decision I ever made.

 Photo credit:  Peter Morse

Photo credit: Peter Morse