Wednesday evening, we had our first ‘E.’ Several months ago, the decision was made to overhaul Family Connect (our mid-week gathering), splitting it into four sections (H. O. M. and E. making an appropriately clever acronym) and giving it new purpose. The ‘E’ was, simply, a monthly excuse to get together and play music and laugh and ask, “what’s your story?” with time to hear the answer.
It was really terrific – easy and open, and everyone gone by 8. 2 parentheses: (Now that we’re older, my kids have bedtimes, my wife has an early job, and it was a weeknight – on weekends, I am tip-top till the wee hours of the night, maybe 9:30 or 10) and (My good friend showed me a Pinterest idea where there was a banner that, instead of ‘Happy Birthday’ or ‘Welcome Home,’ read ‘Please Leave By 9.’ HA!)
Anyway. As I looked around at the people who had (or would soon) become my extended family, I started to think about how grateful I am. You see, I have been reading an inordinate amount of Kurt Vonnegut books, as they are only just now being replaced after losing my entire collection in the flood, and one of his main themes is that we are miserable because we don’t have enough people. Rather than a giant circle, we have isolated ourselves into groups of 3 or 4, and that isn’t nearly enough. If I expect my wife – and she expects me – to be my/her only friend, lover, counselor, partner, babysitter, co-worker, and all the other things we require, we will both be inadequate and unfulfilled. This will, of course, as we all know, lead to the biggest pile of steaming resentment in the middle of the living room floor, spilling into the kitchen, dining room and bedroom, staining every look, word, and moment.
The book I just finished was called Slapstick and, in it, the President re-named all citizens, changing their middle names to, for instance, Daffodil-13. Chad Daffodil-13 Slabach. All Daffodils were family, All 13’s were family. If you needed a loan, you would not go to a bank where they didn’t know or care about you, you would see another Daffodil. If you needed someone to pick you up from the airport, you’d call the 13 down the street. Your family grew exponentially overnight and the nation’s mental health with it. People had others to hold their hands, encourage them, help them find the road when they’d lost their way.
This year is the 25th year since I’ve graduated from Cocalico High School. Last night, I saw this post on Facebook: “Who’s ready for a reunion???” First, how did I get so old? Where did the time go, so fast? And second, not me. But fresh from the book, I wanted to be ‘ready for a reunion!’ I wanted to lead the committee, wanted to be the most enthusiastic 25 year alum this planet had ever seen!!! YAY, reunions!!! So, to stoke those fires, I started to scroll through the members of the Class of 93. Oh baby, the memories! I couldn’t wait to see these great friends to relive these great times!!
Except for just one thing. I hated almost every day of high school. And sitting next to Elisha on the couch, I repeated, “I don’t know who that is.” “I don’t remember her at all.” “You know, buddy, I’m not sure this was my class at all.” And then I’d check. Yes, 1993. Cocalico.
Of course, there were some I remember, some very fondly, but probably not the best thing if I headed the committee, probably shouldn’t be appointed head cheerleader for the cause.
I don’t imagine I’ll go at all.
The thing is, we all said we’d stay close – at least that’s what we wrote in each other’s yearbooks. They were our Daffodils, our 13’s. And we didn’t ‘stay in touch,’ haven’t seen some for 25 years. And we gained new Daffodils in college, and then lost them. And each time, the circles got smaller and smaller, until it was pared down to just 1 or 2 or, if you’re very lucky, a half dozen.
My neighbor just moved, and didn’t ask me to help. (To be fair, I wouldn’t have asked her, either, even though we are very friendly.) I’ve seen too many cry alone. Do you know who you would call with great news? Or bad news? Or when you’re terrified?
So, we had an ‘E’ in my house Wednesday, and these are my people, my Daffodils. I am starting to see, the scales are falling on this misguided, destructive notion that we are independent. The lie that if we ask for help or need someone else, then we are weak and embarrassed.
I held my boy last night, tears in his sweet sad eyes, and I said, “Remember in Guardians of the Galaxy? Star-Lord held the infinity stone, and sure he held it for a while, but then it started to break him apart. His face started to crack into pieces, right? Until Gamora grabbed him. And then Rocket. And then Drax. And then, they could hold it.”