sunrise: reasonably further west
Two years ago J and I visited one of our great lifetime friends at his amazing home in southern Quebec.
Our visit happened to fall on the same weekend as an annual event for our Canadian friend and his family. On the birthday of his oldest child, they invite a bunch of friends from their former home in Ottawa, 3 hours away. For one exuberant weekend, the house fills with about 20 people, half of them children.
It was such a unique experience, that we kind of invited ourselves back again.
There are numerous cool things about this gathering of friends.
First - they only see each other 4 times a year, and their initial connection came from one year of living in the same town. Somehow, this group of young and grown-up friends has become a kind of family. When they are together, they are at their most animated and their most relaxed and secure all at the same time.
Second - Every one of them is bilingual, and for several, English is their second language. To hear a bunch of children bantering back and forth between languages is an amazing thing to my sequestered Maine ears. I realize that this happens in Spanish all over my country nowadays, but I don't see it (nor do many Mainers).
Third - No TV. There is one big computer screen around, but they don't have any television in the house. The whole crew went bowling. The piano was played endlessly by young hands. Kids bundled up and jumped on the trampoline. Piles of books in both languages littered tabletops. A floor-to-ceiling tower of blocks was erected. There was lots of movement up and down three flights of stairs, and lots of noise. It was awesome.
Fourth - I forget that we have this foreign culture just a few hours away from home. Most of the US doesn't think about the fact that we have French speaking neighbors right next door, especially in our increasingly Spanish-speaker influenced society. Architecture, food products, the metric system, signage - everything is different. It is always so eye-opening to travel to a foreign country and be reminded that we each live in a particular culture of our own.
Fifth - Our friend has four children, ages 6 to 14. I think one of the things that irresistibly attracts J and me to that household is the return in time to a houseful of kids. Our own four are launched and away, which is exciting and gratifying in its own multiple ways. But -- to return to that dynamic, discovery-filled period of developing life is intoxicating, especially when we have no responsibility whatsoever! It is a spectacular family of bright, inquisitive, affectionate, twinkling, engaging young people.
Perhaps even more than traveling to a foreign country, traveling back to another kind of time and place in life is breathtakingly illuminating, exhilarating, and heart-stirring.