I'm reminded tonight of when I was a little kid and my parents sent me and my brothers up to bed so that the grownups could visit. Wow. When was the last time I insisted my kids go to bed so the grownups could have their time together? Part of the reason, I suspect, that we were banished to our bedrooms was that the only common area in our home was a living room and a kitchen. We didn't have a rec room or separate family room to separate the kids from the adults. So when it was time for the grownups to visit without little ears listening (and we wouldn't dare speak up and say anything), it was just a matter of course to be sent to bed. There was something comforting about lying in bed, listening to the hum of conversation downstairs, trying to make out the words that drifted up the stairs. The bursts of laughter or the rise in volume when several people would talk at once. We have an old photograph -- in an oval frame with a big bubble of glass covering it --of the farm house that my husband's grandmother grew up in. My father-in-law tells us that one of the memories he has that is still so clear is being upstairs after being sent to bed, and lying on the floor by the heat vent so he could listen to the adults' conversation downstairs. Tonight, I've been exiled once again, upstairs in my bedroom. Emily is stretched out on the bed next to me, watching a movie. The house downstairs is filled with teenagers, "hanging out" or "just chillin'." For the most part the conversation consists of hoots and hollers and laughter as they compete with the Xbox and one another. Strains of Japanese and English language float up the stairs, but the laughter is universal. The kids are gathered for one of the last evenings that they'll be together before our Japanese exchange students head home early Saturday morning. The first month of their visit they did a lot of touring and visiting places and seeing the sites with host families in the area. For the past week they've each been assigned a host family with a student that visited Japan last year. Reunited with their American friends, they've been spending the time just being kids -- going camping, going to a concert in the park to celebrate the end of school and hanging out at each other's houses. I've noticed that the teens that speak English fairly well are gathered with the American kids on the back porch, while the others that don't are in the family room, playing XBox and chattering endlessly among themselves. What a relief it must be for them, after spending so much time with people who speak another language, to just hang with their friends and be able to talk without having to translate their thoughts and speech. I felt that way earlier today when I met with my friend, Renee, for lunch. We both had purposely planned our lunch for later in the week because we knew it was going to be one heck of a week. It's the first "real week" of summer, but it's also been a transition with finishing up work at the school for her and, for me, tying up loose ends before Joe goes back up to school and the other two kids begin some summer activities. Our lunch today has been my lifeline and when we both slid into the booth at Panera, we were almost talking over one another, giddy that we could be with a person who really "understood." Friendship and the need to be understood, it's universal just like laughter.
For my kids, the summer means spending extra time with friends, just "chillin'" and going where the spirit moves them. Afterward, they're in a good mood (most of the time, Em's an 11-year-old girl with 11-year-old friends and we all know how that goes sometimes) and refreshed from having spent time with their "own kind." So in the midst of all the stuff going on this summer, watching oodles of baseball games and taking care of the usual home keeping stuff, I need to make it a point to just "chill" with my friends, too. We'll all be happier as a result.