Grateful Sunday

Today I was driving home from Bigger Town where two of the girls and I had gone on a Quest for Joan’s Dance Shoes (we were only 50% successful, god dammit), and Joan was in charge of the music, and a super cheesy country song was playing something about being alone (was it Taylor Swift? I don’t even know, and the kids are sleeping or I’d ask them), and I started thinking about what I am grateful for this week and…

Well, this.  THIS. I’m thankful for this, exactly THIS, life that I am living.

(My people: my partner and the ones I GREW IN MY BODY (OMFG))
(Do you ever look at photos of your kids and feel INCREDULOUS that they’re all yours? Just me?)

I don’t know what triggered this particular bout of sap, but I think something about the “lonely” line in the song made me realize… I am not lonely! Being lonely is one of the WORST states for me, the extroverted, people-person. Back in college, I worried actively about being lonely (and worse: being ALONE) for my life. I hated not know when or if I’d find a partner and get married, when or if I’d ever be a mother, when or if I’d have good friends to raise my family in community with. The thought of NOT doing those things made me sick, and I agonized over it quite a bit.

I remember talking to East Coast Anne about how we both yearned to have a serious boyfriend (we had boyfriends all right, but they were all tragically DREADFUL), and how we should just being ENJOYING our youth, our 20s, our college years, and she said “We are not good single people. That’s the problem.” And I think she nailed it. I was able to sow plenty of wild oats during my “education” slash college years, but when it really came down to it, all I wanted was to settle down and get married. Or at least KNOW that settling down and getting married was part of the upcoming plan. We were– I was– a horrible single person. Should I have waited until my 30s to get married, spending more time discovering myself and traveling? Maybe that’s for some  people, but the truth is, had I remained single that long I would have just been anxious and miserable and increasingly desperate. (Being single is absolutely a valid, happy option for may people; I am just not one of them.)

But this? This life that David and I have created in the very small town in the middle of no where? THIS is exactly what I wanted. There are so many flaws of this (conservative) town, yes true absolutely, but mostly I have everything I dreamed of. I do! It’s wild to think about that.

I am not lonely. Besides David, we have a houseful of (noisy, wild) girls. We have friendly neighbors (EXCEPT THE CAT PEOPLE). We like our house, we love our neighborhood, every destination in town can be reached in under 10 minutes. We go to the high school plays and football and basketball games and see lots and lots of people we know, because there ISN’T any other entertainment in town. We see our kids teachers at church or the grocery store or out for a walk, and they know not only the child in their classroom’s name, but all of our other kids’ names as well. I never planned on living in such a small town, but now I see the simplicity it provides, and city life seems like an overwhelming squirrel cage of decisions and driving and preschool waiting lists and parking ramps and more driving.

(Momentarily not wild and not loud, because they are stuffing their faces.)

At first being recognized everywhere really bothered me. And trust me, there are plenty of times where I do the fast-paced, head-ducked walk through the grocery store, in a hurry and not wanting to run into and make small talk with anyone. But mostly I’ve adjusted and I love knowing people where ever we go. It feels cozy and nice and like… well, like a community to me. Because it IS.

The icing on all of that cake is that we, by some awesome stroke of completely dumb luck, have found the most wonderful group of friends. I know I’ve said it before, but you really should meet these people. I’m not sure how it happened, but we have an entire group of like-minded, educated, funny, loving people that we are raising our kids with. I can leave my children at any of their homes, no instructions needed, without any drama from the kids, because they are not going to a “babysitters”, but to a friends’ house, a place they feel totally comfortable. I can trust that my friends will treat my kids like their own (well, probably nicer than their own, if we’re all being honest). We always have some sort of up-coming event in the works (dinners! game nights! book club! double-dutch jump rope parties! etc), and best of all, our husbands really like each other too.

(I wasn’t lying about the double dutch thing.)

(Our kids, saying goodbye to summer during our playgroup’s end of the summer “Park Palooza.”)

I’ve hosted two birthday parties this month, and both times, my friends have seamlessly stepped in, stacking up dirty plates, bringing out more napkins, doing exactly what needed to be done amidst all the chaos, all naturally. (I owe you, ladies; plan some big parties this year…I am at your service). I love having friends that are so… comfortable in my life/home. We know where things are in each other’s cabinets. We help ourselves. It is easy to be together. It’s no big deal.

(Some of) the ladies

So, yes, as I was driving home that stupid song and the word “lonely”and the golden fall sunlight and the pretty orange and yellow trees made me so grateful for this. For all of this life that I have, even though I don’t say it nearly enough, and even though I don’t articulate the level of my gratitude, like, AT ALL, THIS life, with all its imperfections,  is what I’m thankful for. I am so lucky and so happy.

(Why yes, I am happiest when 2 out of 4 of the children are asleep. Or, no, wait, I’m happIEST when all four are asleep for the night.)