We have a Homebuilders Sunday School class in this church. I would venture to say that most churches have a class by this name. When you see this name, you know what to expect - young families in the throes of raising babies and toddlers, the moms looking either beautiful and young or exhausted and frazzled, the dads looking young, confident, ambitious. In this church it is different. Sixty years ago they would have looked that way, but now, they are the oldest class in our church, their numbers slowly dwindling as their members die. It is mostly women now as their young and ambitious husbands have already left this world, their ambitions realized or else abandoned. And the women remain, walking slowly, some stooped, some leaning on a cane, some with a twinkle in their still-beautiful eyes, and some with eyes that carry a sadness of untold hurts.
I think about this class. It is a beautiful and rare thing these days in our mobile society - for people to remain in one place so long that the friends who brought over casseroles when your babies were born are the same friends who come to your funeral and mourn your death, and bring warmed-up green beans and corn (as casseroles are just too much work these days for their tired arms and legs) to your funeral lunch to feed your family. Do they remember how they used to go shopping with each other for cute clothes and laugh now at their 20 year-old dresses? Do they get teary-eyed when they see pictures of each other’s great-grandchildren, remembering when that child’s grandmother was a rebellious teenager giving her mother fits? I think about this class, and I grieve that I will never have it. Admittedly, we chose this life, one of moving and new adventures and friends in many places, and roots that are not deep so much as they are wide.
As we move, I am struck by how, at each new place, you are naturally drawn to people who have kids the same age as your own. You have an immediate connection. You can talk teething, potty training, homework, or hormones, whatever stage your child is in. Having 4 kids spread in age from 4-10 gives me a wide range of people to connect with. If my kids aren’t there now, they were at one point or will be soon.
But I can’t help but think about my friends in Crowell who were all pregnant at the same time as me. We had those babies and talked about nursing and sleeping through the night and teething, and we moved before my first one was even potty trained. And then in Denver City where I feel the most loss for a Homebuilders Class - maybe because we stayed there the longest, or had the closest friends, or went through Joey’s cancer together. When you go through something like that with people, you share a history. You never have to tell people about it, in a short, condensed version, because they lived it with you. They prayed and cried and laughed, and showed up with casseroles and chocolate ice cream and margaritas (it’s a good thing we’re Methodists!) It was with these friends that we talked over things like potty training, and first days of kindergarten, and helped each other through the mind-numbing, wonderful, exhausting days of having toddlers and babies and young children. And we would talk about how in a small town everyone else but the parents seems to know when a teenager has done bad things, and we swore that we would tell each other the truth about our kids, no matter how painful or uncomfortable. But even as I said it, I knew that I would not be there when my kids were teenagers. I might hope and even pretend that, but I knew it would not come to pass.
And so now I find myself here - grieving for a Homebuilders Class that I will never have. That ship has long since sailed. I am 3 moves removed from my original Homebuilders. And while it makes me sad, I will move on, never being one to spend too much time on what is lost (maybe to my detriment?) Instead I think about how some friends from Crowell have recently come to visit us at church here in Abilene, and my boys told me once we got home, “These people came up to me and hugged me, and said, ‘You don’t know me, but we love you!’ Isn’t that weird? Weird, but kind of cool too.” And we ran into some friends from Denver City recently, and we were hugging them, and catching up on old times, and Sam said, “I don’t remember you, but I’m going to hug you anyway!” He may not remember the face or the name, but he realizes in some small way that they share a history, that their lives intersected for a time.
And so, my Homebuilders Class may not be one where I get to see them everyday and go shopping with them, and help them pick out new curtains for the living room, and cry together when our babies start Kindergarten and when they graduate from high school. But I guess my class is still here, just spread out over several cities. And so I go on with the sometimes difficult task of sharing my life with new people. Telling the condensed version of my history and listening to theirs. Hopefully getting to share in the part of each other’s lives in the years where we are together. Letting our roots run together for a time, knowing that at some point, we will have to untangle them and move on. Knowing that the untangling part can be painful and usually involves ripping part of yourself off and leaving it there, but also knowing that letting your roots get all tangled up with someone else’s just means you both have a stronger foundation.