Almost thirty years ago, Beve and I lived in a college dorm with a newborn baby and three floors of rowdy college students. We were friends with three other couples who were also hall directors (and spouses), with one other baby among us. They were sweet days, even though we had very little privacy or money and our three room apartment was so tiny it would fit into our living room in this house. We had great, rollicking dinner parties with these other couples, sharing meals in the college cafeteria or our little apartments with such joy and laughter you'd have thought we were dining on fine china at the Savoy (I've eaten there--no big deal!).
And the babies, these two little girls, grew from infants to two-year-olds during our days there. They learn to roll over, sit up, crawl (well, E didn't), walk, and run in the halls of dorms and long walk-ways of a college campus. They were loved by college students, cafeteria workers and even professors but mostly these couples who were family to each other. Even in the years after we left there, while we continued to live in that city, we continued to share holiday meals, birthday parties, and just-for-the-heck of it get-togethers. We saw each others' babies in the hospital--at least until we left :).
But life gets in the way of keeping people close, you know? We who were once in each others' pockets, haven't been altogether in half a decade even for a meal. But Saturday, one of the couples had a son get married. And by the kind of intention that comes with such long relationship, we were all together again.
We've been closer to the family whose daughter was the other baby with E in those early days. E and that woman are just short of thirty years of knowing each other. Their friendship is long and deep and has, as you might imagine, connected us well, too. So of course, E was with us this weekend when her old friend's brother married. E was sitting in the pew when the first other couple arrived. If we haven't seen them in half a decade, I think she hasn't seen them in double that long--or more. The husband saw her right after he hugged me. "Is that E?" he asked. I nodded. He grinned, like he was seeing a long-lost child. In a way I think he was. They all were. It was amazing to watch how much they wanted to talk to her, how dear she (and her friend, CEK) is to them. It hadn't occurred to me that to these people our first child had been like their own child, too, their own baby. E took her first steps in one of their living rooms, she gladly fell asleep in any of their arms. When we needed a moment away, we dropped her at their places and they never took a dime. She belonged to all of us. "Do you remember how you liked having me play with you?" one of them asked E. She didn't, of course. She was too little. But those words made ME remember...and maybe even brought a couple of tears to my eyes.
It was a wonderful thing to be reminded of this over the weekend. It reminds me of what community can really be. I have been feeling a little lost lately, now that all the work and ministry of the last (many) years of caring for Grampie (and Thyrza) has come to a close. We've had different kinds of community at different times in our lives. And we will have it again. These people, though we aren't as close as we were for that season just a few short years ago (it sure feels short since then today), still love us, are still committed to us. And I feel the same about them.
I bet if all of you look back over your lives, you can think of those kind of friendships, too. You can think of people with whom you did life on a daily basis for a season, but no longer see very often. It's good news, indeed, that nothing is lost from such far-away days, that they mattered, that it's only time and space that separate, not hearts. Thank God.