For the last two years, almost every Thursday night, I get together with the same two families. We rotate houses each week, meaning every 3rd week, the gang comes to our place. The other weeks, we go to one of their houses.
And we are a motherfucking gang. Six adults and 9 kids between us, aged: 14, 10, 5, 5, 5, 3, 2, 18 months and 6 months.
My friend Kristi suggested this. I would never be that smart. When she suggested it, I thought “Well that kinda sounds like alotta work” but answered “Yeah totally” because I’ve grown to not trust my judgment when it comes to things like this. I’ve found that life hands you some pretty interesting shit if you say “yes” as often as you can, even if your gut is all “No thanks I’m fine right here in Land That I Know.”
I’ve also learned that something “sounding like a lot of work” is a crap reason to avoid it.
And so, we eat together on Thursday nights.
We eat together through death and grief and illness big and small. Through depression and joy and arguments and just another boring old Thursday night. We eat together in the dead heat of summer and the rainy chill of winter and we eat through tantrums and squeals of delight.
The kids blend into one another, a giant ball of love and limbs that kind of rolls through the house in an air of noise, the tiniest ones following behind devotedly.
I’ll hold the baby. Mac will hold the baby. Somebody will hold the baby and somebody will cut the kids’ meat and somebody will deal with the finger that maybe just got smashed in the door. Also, they should stop doing that.
We kiss, hold, hug, redirect and discipline as if all the kids were ours. They are, I suppose, all ours.
When screams come from a bedroom we look around and ask “Which kid is that?”
If an adult’s back there, we have another cracker. We know our friend’s got it.
We know our friend’s got it.
We sit together through crying kids who haven’t eaten enough for dessert. We sit through BS times in marriage. We sit through alcoholic family members and no money and a little money and vacations and rounds of strep throat and on Halloween maybe we dress up together. We sit together through pregnancies, the expected and unexpected kind, and we sit together through newborn periods and husbands working out of town and questionable mental health.
Each week when I ask “What can I bring?” or read “My house tomorrow, 5:45pm,” I know soon I’ll be at a table with friends who are just friends because we are friends. If that makes sense to you, you are a fucking blessed human.
We pass baby clothes around and it’s less painful because I know I’ll get to see another baby in those pajamas, on a Thursday night, as if he were mine. We all live within a mile from each other. Sometimes we walk to each other’s houses.
Sometimes we stop for a couple weeks, but we pick back up. Right where we left off. Just exactly where we left off. We keep picking up where we left off like a little crew that won’t give up and when the world is crashing and pummeling around me, when 10,000 things are happening that make me feel thrown around at sea, the chair at that table with my friends becomes a 10,000 pound anchor.
A built-in support system. A group of humans who already know because they’re already there. They’re always there. Sick? Soup. Depression? Company. New baby? Both. Out of town? Plants watered.
We know our friend’s got it.
I watch the three girls who’ve known each other since birth, in each other’s clothes, now they’re in a tattling stage. We tell them as they come, one by one, that they can work it out with each other. We laugh. They’re getting big. Ava and Rocket sit with us now at the adult table (none of us have a table big enough for 14 people). We talk and talk and talk. We get interrupted again and again and again. We get up, we clean up, we get annoyed, we discuss revisionist history, and a maybe a trip snowboarding this weekend. They all come out of the room without clothes. Somebody just poured water in her plate. Arlo is snatching toys. The three-year-old is on time-out. The baby’s nursing.
Everything is just as it should be, this Thursday night.
In times like this, when mosques are being fire bombed and Muslims spat upon and planned parenthood shot up and San Bernardino shot up and all the schools shot up and all the life bombed and Donald Trump white supremacist hate-conjuring as if the Japanese Internment never happened and old friends are dying and getting sick and newer ones too, and, and.
Each Thursday I sit at a table with my friends and our whirling-dervish mayhem, good food and love become a tiny shelter in an insane unjust bullshit world. It’s all falling apart, out there, it seems, but tonight we share something we made or they made for me, taking in the love of humans still in my arms, now in my arms. Our kids. Our bellies. Lives move on and on and yet stay right here at our table.
We don’t have to talk about it. We just pick up where we left off.
Our kids are the ages of the ones who died in Newtown. We don’t have to talk about it. We will, for a moment. For a moment somebody will say something, but probably not much else, as we sit down and serve ourselves and smile at the 2-year-old who just removed her clothes for the 10th time tonight.
What beauty. What luck.
People, I never tell you what to do, but I’m telling you this: Get yourself a crew. Find them. Show up. Cook some food. A lot. Pick up where you fucking left off.
Every time. Just pick up where you left off and know they’ve got it.
Know your friend’s got it. None of us were made to withstand the weight alone.
Two spots left in my January writing workshop.
February is half-full.
Join us now!
WRITE THE MOTHERFUCKING WORDS.
(Also, hang out with me (well, via video). I’m way less batshit than I appear in my writing. LIES I AM WORSE.)