For the last year, my college friend Gina, her husband, and her daughter and son have been living here in Bryn Mawr. They leave to return to San Diego in just a few days, and I am very sad to see them go!
When Gina moved here, we started one of the most depressing and shortest-lived book clubs of all time. We started by reading "Age of Iron" - an apartheid era novel about a terminally ill woman, we moved onto "The Bookseller of Kabul" - an expose of sorts about women's lives in Afghanistan, and we stopped just shy of discussing "Mercy" the new Toni Morrison book about 19th Century slavery. I wonder why no one (including us) wanted to join our book club? I know she's going to be excited to return to her military-wives book club in San Diego and return to reading normal books again - or at least ones that do not require the reader to be on a therapeutic dose of a mood elevator.
We had dinner with friends occasionally too, but the real jewel of her time here was our Friday night "dates." Now Thursday nights are my "date night" with my husband, so initially I felt bad introducing competition in calling it a "date", but it was also so nice to have a day that we planned to see each other, even if it was more often every other week.
In the process of our Friday evenings together, I got to spend quite a bit of time with her brilliant, adorable, and talented children. I loved seeing her and her husband with them - a united front, but equal parts playful and structured. Her daughter is creative and sweet. She is friendly and precocious with an enviable imagination. Like the first time I spent the whole evening there - when she did a dramatic interpretation of the life cycle of a butterfly - or last night when she drew just about the best horse I could ever imagine a 3.5 year old drawing. And her sweet son is like this tiny silent bumper car of smiles... ricocheting off furniture, finding his way into new and ever-more dangerous places, but with a full-body grin that makes you want to just ease him to a new venture without scolding.
Spending time with them has provided me with a parental model I really want to emulate: equal parts books and playing, fun not only in the messing up of things but in the picking up too, and an omnipresent consistency that allows the children to relax into the routine - comforted in knowing what is going to happen, regardless of whether it is mom or dad who is actually doing the routine.
I know it's not easy for them, but this is truly a beautiful family - inside and out. And I am grateful to them for welcoming me into their lives so openly.
...And I am going to miss them terribly.