I had brunch with Saul’s (and now my) niece and nephew last Sunday at a place called Community. I liked the name of the restaurant and it got me thinking.
(Oh, just to catch you up–I am on the bus and I’m next to my favorite bus companion—no nose-picker to bedevil me today. This guy and I share a bond. “No one understands the three-seater next to the bathroom is the best seat on the bus” he proclaimed the other day. How could I not love him? Besides, he is handsome. I have what is known in my transit world as a bus crush. Bus crushes are usually pretty harmless. I would like to think he has a bus crush on me and is sad on days I don’t ride the bus praying I will leap on at the last minute–but that is probably not the case. He probably has a girlfriend. But he did ask to borrow my charger case for his phone a few weeks ago which in my book is a gesture of courtship. My bus crush even talked on his phone for about 15 minutes one evening and I didn’t mind. He was coaching one of his buddies on how to get a job. He seemed very helpful. He had a cold and kept coughing on the very same ride but I didn’t mind that either. I worried about his health. Saul knows about my bus crush. Saul doesn’t seem to get too nervous about any of my crushes. He just rolls his eyes and sighs. I don’t think Saul realizes that I could be a sexual threat if I wanted to be. I could be too if I wasn’t so tired from riding the bus.)
Where was I? Oh yes, community… I think about it a lot now that we moved to New Hope. Saul and I think we are the best thing that has happened to New Hope in a long time. We may be incorrect but it’s what gets us up and out of bed in the morning
During these times when that guy in the White House seems more interested in dividing rather than uniting us, and mass shootings and catastrophes are the order of the day, community feels pretty vital.
I was thinking about the communities in my life. I have writers group which is really just a way to bond with others in a field where you do most of your work in solitude (or next to your bus crush). Then there’s the office where you all have a shared goal. When I had to deal with addiction issues the main thing that helped me get myself together and stop was being part of a community of other people who had stopped. And now I try to help others stop too. I think the best thing about churches is that they give people a sense of community. I wish some of them didn’t try to force me to become part of their community or try to shove their believes down my throat, but I’m glad for them when they do good for themselves and others and try to look at them with a forgiving heart.
A lot of people think there is no community in New York City, but there is. In fact, New York is really a series of communities. When I lived in Brooklyn, I had my regulars on my block—the ladies at the Korean laundry who were always in awe of how much dog hair I had on my clothes; the guy at the shoe repair, the waitress at our favorite Turkish restaurant and the guy from Yemeni who ran the corner deli. And then I had a larger group of friends from all over the city who looked out for me and buffered me when life got particularly rough.
But I have to admit it is different in a small town like New Hope. After we lived in New Hope just a few months, Saul and I went on vacation to Greece. On the day we left, four people form town showed up to see us off. The weird thing is I didn’t mind. In NYC I may have thought they were casing the joint but in New Hope I truly felt like they would miss us when we were gone. You can see why we have such a big head about our popularity the town.
(My bus crush is playing a video and it’s making a lot of noise but it’s okay. Maybe he forgot his headphones today. Everyone makes mistakes.)
Saul and I just had our first-year anniversary. Last year we saw a lot of egrets along the river on our wedding day. We looked up their meaning and symbolism on the internet. Egrets mean independence. We took that to mean we still need to be individuals even though we were now joined in marriage.
But this second year we are focused on community.
We had a great of example of why community is important to us just this last Sunday. We had been planning a special anniversary dinner using a gift certificate at the restaurant where we had our wedding. We made the reservation and cleared our schedule for our very special dinner.
Then about three hours before dinner, we got a text from Masha, the wife of Saul’s best friend Drue. Drue was Saul’s best man at our wedding and Saul’s was his at his wedding. I had also officiated Drue and Masha’s wedding. The text read. “Hi, we are on our way back home from VA and were wondering if you are in New Hope today?”’
I hate spontaneity.
In my book spontaneity is up there with suffocating a person with a pillow.
Spontaneity is a threat.
Of course, they can’t come was my first thought. Let’s hide from them under the bed. But Drue was coming back from burying his mom’s ashes and people really don’t just come through New Hope that often so…we decided to add two more people to the reservation for our romantic anniversary dinner. What’s a romantic anniversary dinner without a grieving son?
Then I got another text from Saul who was painting at his gallery down the block. He was concerned about our friend David who had just had brain surgery. David had come out of the surgery with flying colors a few weeks earlier after being very concerned beforehand that he wouldn’t be himself when he got out of the OR. The town rallied around him before during and after and it was inspiring to see. I assumed after everything came out okay, he would be thrilled to be alive but apparently, it really knocks you for a loop when you have your brain operated on and have to confront your own mortality head-on. Who knew? So, David had seemed a little down and Saul was worried. Should we invite him to our romantic dinner? I texted back. Why not? Saul replied. But don’t tell him it’s our anniversary dinner. He will think he is intruding and won’t come. So I cheerfully lied to David (or at the very least witheld important information) and invited him to dinner.
(My bus buddy just pulled out a bag of cheerios and is crunching them loudly. I guess every relationship has its tests. I mean what’s a little crunching, right?)
That night we went to the restaurant and celebrated our anniversary. David and Drue who had both gone through painful periods in their life where able to laugh with the rest of us. It was the most fun intimate romantic dinner I had had in a long time.
(Oh my god. Bus buddy just started taking to me. I think he wants to sell me some software that translates languages or something—I don’t know exactly what he is talking about but I’m pretending to be interested. He also asked what I write about every day. I almost told him about my blog but then I would have to delete this post. If it disappears one day you will know he is my Facebook friend).
I had no regrets about our very crowded anniversary meal. Marriage is hard. Well, I guess I can’t speak to anyone else’s, but I think it’s great and wonderful but it takes a lot of work. Maybe calm and stoic people have easy marriages requiring tiny bits of maintenance but calm and stoic have never been used in the same sentence as Saul and Keith are…
During out wedding, my best friend Leanne who is a minister led the ceremony. She knows how much I love crows and produced two crow feathers as if by magic (trust me–the crowd gasped in amazement and applauded—I heartily recommend her for your next wedding or baptism.) She said the feathers were a reminder that Saul and I need to lift each other up in hard times. But sometimes one of us needs more lifting than the other and sometimes both of us need to be lifted up and don’t have the strength to help each other. That is when we count on our community to swoop in and catch us both. I love that Saul gets help sometimes on how to deal with me, and I suspect he likes that I have help with how to deal with him.
So have crowded intimate dinners every once in awhile. Swoop in on people when they are down and let them swoop in on you when you are down.
Find your flock and fly.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR—Keith Hoffman wonders if his bus crush is secretly writing about him in a blog.