Hey friends. I promised a post today on intentional community. You won’t be getting it today. For now I’m planning on posting it Thursday. Everything is fine here, just a tiring weekend that didn’t get the memo about the blog post I needed to write.
Today I’m pulling an old one out of the archives for you. This posted originally in November, 2010. It’s poignant to look back on now and see what the last year and a half has held, to see the stirrings that were already present, to see what has and hasn’t changed. Enjoy.
There was a time when I didn’t like children, and then some exceptional ones taught me how, and then I wanted more than I could safely carry. By the method Lyndie and I were taking we could only adopt one at a time, but we could dream about as many as we wanted, and doing so was stressing us out subliminally. We didn’t yet have the first one in our arms and we were already worrying over the shape the next adoption would take, and how many there would be. Then lying in bed late one night Lyndie spoke truth into our circus plans. “You know, we might just be one child kind of people. Either way, we need to be for now.” Cart, meet horse.
Your first baby is an eight pound universe. There might be others out there, but it can’t be proven. Yours is the only one you’re aware of. Ours, as it turns out, was 8 months old and 15 lbs, give or take a mashed up banana, but our small blue planet moved around her and its tides obeyed her gravity. When I’d rock her to sleep she’d stare at me with eyes like liquid coal and I’d whisper all I knew from Mueller, Blake, Dickinson, Barrett Browning, Byron, Millay, anything I could remember on any given night. I probably could have read her microwave recipes and gotten her to sleep, but the poetry reassured me, if not her. What reassured her was what always calms us when words don’t mean anything yet – skin, heartbeat, eyes, breath, voice. Still, I hoped she would reach up and claim those lines for herself – she walked in beauty like the night long before she could walk.
I don’t have to rock her to sleep anymore, or even stay in the room. We sing some songs, pray, sing a couple more, and then kiss goodnight. She calls out softly “Te amo” when I’m half way down the stairs, and I call it back with a smile she can’t see. She falls asleep on her own. She’s the age now when most couples would be thinking about having another child. I think my wife is getting there. I’m still not, and I’m not sure what that means. Part of me can’t help but wonder if Lyndie was more right than she thought that night several years ago. We might just be one child kind of people. If I’m honest, I know the biggest thing that compels me to have another is my belief in the need and power of adoption, not any personal desire to be a father of two. I rather like being the father of one. And I have no idea what direction our lives will take in the next few years.
Will we stay in our house; will we stay in our church; will we stay in our town. These are the questions that float through the air at our home every month or so, like dust getting pounded out of couch cushions. They resettle and we forget them again for a while. There is a degree to which we will probably always feel like square pegs trying to fit into round holes here, and I imagine our daughter will feel this too as she gets older. Non-conformist, bohemian, liberal, artist – they’re about the most useless, or at least most frustrating, things to try to be in a small Midwestern town. I can’t promise Yosi will be any of those things, but I know her parents, so there’s a chance. And she’s not white, and our town is, pervasively. Something like 97%. So there’s that, for whatever you take it for. She’ll not have the easiest time of it, but it will give her material, should she ever choose to use it.
Sometimes the sky looks like woodsmoke and we walk down the sidewalk between the brick buildings downtown in our thrift store finest with our funky-haired darling in between us and we feel poetic as hell. The rest of the time we listen to good music at home in the evenings and try to be everything to each other. Every few months good friends will come from out of town and those few from in town will come out of hiding and we’ll stay up too late, drinking all from one bottle and laughing at obscure film references and when Lyndie and I finally go to bed we talk about communal living like we talk about traveling Europe. We live always on the agitated fringe of contentment. We’re not all that daring, but it doesn’t take much here.
I said last week that to be a writer is to spend your life staring inappropriately, and I wonder if sometimes we do it hoping someone will stare back. We love our church, but we so often feel we’re the only ones staring, the only ones who want…whatever it is she and I seemed doomed or blessed to spend our lives looking for. I don’t have multi-colored hair anymore, but I still don’t feel tamed, and I don’t want those around me tamed either. Lyndie said it well once: “Hoping to meet a kindred soul is like saying, ‘Look, we’re wearing leopard print under here!’ to everyone who might possibly understand.”
This all sounds hopelessly adolescent, and we are far from lonely, and (I think) far from snobbish. We don’t need people to look, act, think, recreate, eat, drink, listen or watch exactly like us. I have many real and sacred friends who listen to music I hate and decorate their houses in hues I pretend don’t exist and hold political and theological beliefs diametrically opposite our own, yet are friends of the heart. And this is beautiful. This is one of my favorite things about the true Church, and about all humans when we’re open to love. At the core our needs are the same. But how we desire and receive those needs…well, there’s the rub.
How the hell did I get here from that first paragraph? I guess I just can’t think of my daughter without thinking of the environment she’ll grow up in. I want her to know beauty. I want her to have fun without having to spend money. I want her to hold her doctrinal convictions with an open hand. I want her to grow up around people of varied ethnicities and religions. I want her to remember her parents’ strange and wonderful friends. I want her to see into people, to hear them. I want her to have an insatiable thirst for truth, and a courage to question how its accepted forms were arrived upon. I want her to learn how to be comfortable with all kinds of people, and how to be content with her own company. I want her to experience beauty so ineffable it fills her to brimming, and to become addicted to that consummation of the heart. And in all of this I wonder how to pull it off in little old Greenville, Ohio. If you’re reading this, I think you probably understand.