catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 11, Num 18 :: 2012.10.12 — 2012.10.25


In the meantime

Just one week after our wedding, celebrated on a warm night in early August, my newly christened husband and I were en route across the country, chasing adventure and opportunities two thousand miles away from home. During the summer days that preceded this excitement, my mind was occupied with planning our wedding and preparing to quit my job and worrying about when, exactly, I’d find time to pack my life into boxes. I daydreamed occasionally about the hypothetical day when our lives and routines would be neatly established in our new city, but I thought nothing of the season that would come before it: the season in which, though the furniture is set up, the pantry stocked and our route to the farmers market well established, we lack friends and a church and a coffee shop where they know our names.

I grew up in a state far away from my extended family, but my parents surrounded us with a wonderful community. We spent holidays with our closest friends and threw parties for birthdays. Meals were passed when times were rough, and friends knew about one another. My childhood was filled with people who weren’t related to me by blood but loved me just the same.

I didn’t understand what my parents had given me until college, when I was awakened, intellectually speaking, to the concept of community by dorm living and the enthusiasm of my school’s student life division. And I was convinced: my senior year, I moved into a drafty old house with six other girls. We shared food and split the chores and played with the kids who lived down the street and hosted dozens and dozens of people for pancakes each Saturday morning.

After college, establishing community was harder. I gradually assembled my people, groups and individuals and families I’d met in various, often unexpected ways: an acquaintance whose romance failed at the same time as my own, a housemate of the subject of said failed relationship, a girl from my hometown who moved to my city at just the right moment. I clung to them.

I was living alone at the time, and sometimes, of course, I felt lonely, but I had people. I had friends to call when I was blue, my neighbors watched out for me, I went to gatherings and dinners and dance parties, my girlfriends and I shared anxieties and dreams over countless cups of coffee and glasses of wine, I cooked with friends in my tiny kitchen. And eventually, when I started dating the man who became my husband, the two of us set about the task of figuring out what community could be for us together, stumbling over only a handful of bumps along the way.

From the blur of our wedding day, one moment remains particularly clear. As we walked out of the church after the ceremony, our assembled guests erupted into cheers and shouts and whistles, waving ribbons and blowing bubbles, exuberant and joyful. For the first time, I literally saw my community. It was right there: the cheering crowd, the assembly in front of us as we made our vows, the people clustered around long tables and spread across the dance floor at our reception. These images are burned into my mind, a fiery reminder of how lucky, how blessed I am. I don’t think I had realized it before.

I have been irreversibly convinced — by the family friend from my childhood who made my favorite potato dish nearly every time we went over, the spunky resident directors of my college dormitories, the housemate who baked fresh loaves of bread during exam week, the friends who patiently listened to me sort through my relationship anxieties and all of my ambitions, the group assembled at our wedding — that community matters. Community is addictive: once experienced, it is hard to imagine life any other way.

Yet suddenly, we are far away from everyone we’ve loved. I know we’ll make friends, I know it takes time, I know we’ll look up one day and realize we have a community once again. But I want to share slices of the pie I’ve just baked, I want to tell someone I’m struggling with this transition, I want the neighbors to notice when we alter our routine. I keep wondering, what do we do in the meantime?

And I have realized that we do what we’ve always done: cobble it together. Because what is community if not a motley assemblage of friends and family and coworkers and neighbors and acquaintances who somehow, together, hold us up?

We still have our old community, even if its members are now miles away. Other friends have been far away for years, and our long-distance relationships are well rehearsed through extended texting conversations held at laundromats and bus stops. There are online friends I’ve made through blogging; we never relied upon proximity anyway. Gradually, we form friendships in this city with acquaintances and friends of friends and strangers. We visit churches and introduce ourselves. Our neighbors are kind, and perhaps there’s even something to the now-familiar faces of those who run around the lake at the same time I do each morning.

In the meantime, I have all of that. And in the meantime, I develop patience. Because despite my beloved, far-flung community, I am eager for the day when I can throw a big party right here in my new city, toast to a friend’s success, welcome an unexpected visitor with a cup of tea, bake a stunning cake for a gathering and, with my people around me, finally feel like I am home.

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