All Together Now
The one thing that surprises me most about having six kids, is the togetherness of it. One moment this Sunday found two girls making an Epiphany cake with Mom supervising, two pre-schoolers giggling over Rugrats on the couch, the tween trying to sleep-off a sleepover (she didn’t and just played DS) and Baby chasing Dad upstairs. Wherever you went in our house, there was something going on and someone to talk to. We have a built-in community.
This morning when the three big girls left to return to school, they had a right send off. Kiss and hug twice from Mom, twice from Princess, twice from Big Boy and then all four of us stood at the door and waved good-bye. Or at least we tried, until Big Boy realized that the girls forgot to say good-bye — and kisses! — to Igglepiggle and Upsy Daisy. Finally they were allowed to leave for the three minute walk to school, with enough noise that you wouldn’t have thought they wouldn’t be back as soon as 3:30 — more like a week.
I’m always struck by what a big group I’m in when I’m out and trying to find a seat. Those “Find Your Own Seat” events at halls with the big banquet tables set up, as well as Malls, present their own challenges. At Pasta Dinners and Church Barbecues, once we commandeer a table, everything’s dandy. We’ve brought our own party, often sharing the extra chair with some hapless singleton who has no one more intimate to eat with. At the Mall it is the polar opposite. All the tables are built for two and taken by one, sharing their meal with their text messages, a magazine, or just staring out into space. Here, we can never seem to get a table to fit and are forced to take over whole rows. Everyone stares. Perhaps that’s our mission in life; distract food court patrons from their lack of dinner companions.
I used to be a loner before the kids came along. I would walk alone, eat lunch alone, and browse the bookstore alone. And I was obsessed with the lack of community in modern life. I was always yammering on about block-parties, new Urbanism and useful power outages. Little did I realize, that especially in the days when people tended to stay in the same area that they were raised, much of the capital of community was actually the coinage of blood relation. Sometimes my Sweetheart and I like to play a game called How Many for Supper?, where we imagine the head count at a Christmas Dinner sometime in the future. Right now, immediate family only, we have 8 for dinner. If 5 of our 6 kids marry, with spouses we’ll have 13 around the table. If those 5 couples have any average of 4 kids each, including grandchildren we will be setting 33 places. Change the event to our 88th Birthday Party, add in spouses for some grandchildren and even great-grandchildren, and number climbs even higher. Of course this excludes people moving far away, and “never speaking again” feuds (God forbid!), but you get the picture. The very crowded picture.
My Grandmother (oldest of 8) used to tell me that no one could afford to raise a large family “now a days.” And yes, I would agree that sometimes our grocery bill gives my the vapours (not to mention Christmas Dinner for 33!) But there is something that double entry bookkeeping cannot capture — the cost to cure loneliness. Money will come and go. Someone will always be willing to sell you their stuff. But warm hearts aren’t so easy to come by.