Maybe it's that we're extremely busy and married with four children and our idea of a perfect night is to watch a movie and fall asleep by 10 PM. Despite our best intentions, it simply hasn't been in our nature to pick up the phone and coordinate an activity with other people. Probably because we are home bodies and we like Netflix. Very, very much.
But recently, it's been sinking in that although we seem to know a lot of people throughout the neighborhood, and at school, we don't have many friends. Acquaintances, yes. Friends, no. We went to church, but then we stopped going to church and then we went to a new church (and three more new churches) and that pilgrimage will be a fun post in and of itself.
Ultimately, it feels like we've been skirting the periphery of building a community around ourselves and that is something that Charlie and I both want and need. Not only because a community is a good thing, but because at what point would people come looking for us, if we were to vanish? Would anyone notice?
Oh, sure. I suspect people might begin to wonder once March rolled around and maybe they'd ask themselves, "What ever happened to those Girl Scout cookies that were supposed to be delivered? Didn't they say they'd be here by the end of February…?"
So last month, on a whim, I suggested that Charlie call and extend a "play date" invitation to one of the boys in William's Tiger Cub Den that had recently moved in to our neighborhood. But instead of only inviting the boy, I recommended that he extend an invitation to the entire family. Then, I called another family in the neighborhood and extended a similar invitation to them. That is how two wonderful families converged on our home, on a bitter cold night, three weeks ago. And while nine children ran around playing, six adults stood around our kitchen table and rolled out homemade pizza dough. We talked and laughed and shared stories.
The "playdate", which was supposed to last from 4 PM until 7 PM, extended until 11 PM. Most nights, our children are in bed asleep by 7:30, so this was way past their bed times. But it was a memorable evening that concluded with kids watching movies, buried under blankets, and adults strategizing how they'd best accomplish items on their bucket lists.
It was incredibly fun.
This past Saturday, when Charlie took our two daughters to the Father-Daughter Dance, I extended an invitation to all of the families in our Daisy troop. I'd suggested that if anyone wanted to swing by - our door would be open. People did swing by and while children ran around and played, adults sat around and talked. When the volume of food I had laid out wasn't diminishing, they texted their spouses and told them that when the dance was over - they could drop by with their big appetites. Very soon, fathers were coming in with their beautifully dressed daughters, and before we knew it, it was 11 PM.
I've decided that for as much as I love my down time, I also love spending time with others. It's grounding to talk with people who are on similar life paths and have the same challenges, fears, joys and concerns. It recharges my husband's batteries to have a heated game of ping pong with other men. And it recharges my batteries to talk with women who ask, "Why is it so challenging to meet people? Am I the only one that feels like they can't get caught up? What should I be doing differently? And what the heck is happening with my eyes? Are you find it INCREASINGLY difficult to see things, or is it just me?"
I don't know.
But, then again - I do know.
Or at least, I know the feelings.
And the consensus is that once you turn 40, eye sight diminishes, almost instantly.
As Charlie and I were cleaning up, once everyone left and we'd finally tucked our children in to bed, we were glowing. Glowing because we genuinely felt like we had done something good. We are forging relationships and sharing in life with the people around us. While movies are awesome, we are actively creating memories, for ourselves - for our children - and for our new friends and their children. We are building our community.
The chances are now a little bit greater that if we were to suddenly vanish, we'd be missed.
And not just because of the cookies.