Monday, April 12, 2010

Happy to stay close to home this weekend

I sometimes say that a good weekend is one in which I don’t leave Carlisle city limits. It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek. Carlisle is a town of 6,000, so using “city” to modify anything about it, including its borders, is facetious. Nonetheless, I love weekends that are home- and community-based, and I can’t help feeling a particular sense of satisfaction on a Sunday evening when I realize I haven’t left town in 48 hours.

This was very close to being that kind of weekend – as close as I almost ever get, in fact. On Friday, Holly had a friend for a sleepover; the highlights of the evening were pasta alfredo and homemade meatballs for dinner, s’mores for dessert (we make s’mores in the oven, which I am unapologetic in my preference for; unlike the campfire version, the chocolate actually melts, and you can broil the marshmallows to perfection every time), and a screening of the DVD "Flicka." Actually, those are what I saw as the highlights; the girls would probably say the best part was getting to stay awake talking until 10 PM and then falling asleep at the same time in Holly’s double bed.

On Saturday, we had our townwide Trash Party. As co-chair with my friends Lisa and Mollie, I had the pleasurable job of sitting in the park in the Town Center handing out trash bags, serving up doughnuts and coffee, and making suggestions as to what street different families who dropped by for an assignment should tackle in terms of trash clean-up. A few minor altercations broke out among neighbors squabbling over the privilege of collecting crumpled newspapers, crushed Coke cans, beer bottles and fast food wrappers along the same stretch of road, but Lisa handled those; I just thanked people for their hard work and encouraged them to take another doughnut hole before they hit the roadways to start gathering litter.

At noon, Lisa, Mollie and I piled into our pickup truck and drove around town collecting full trash bags people had left by the side of the road for us. It felt a little like a warped Easter egg hunt. “There’s one!” we would call out when we saw the big black bags hulking by the side of the road. I’d pull over; the two of them would jump out, grab the bags, throw them in the back, and we’d be on our way again. As the three of us talked about kindergarten placement, houses for sale in our town and ways that one husband in the group had annoyed his wife that morning, it reminded me of the scene where the three girls drive around together in the movie “Mystic Pizza.” This was the middle-aged suburban version.

Later in the afternoon I went for a five-mile run along one of my favorite routes. When I returned home, Holly was sitting on the big rock in front of our house waiting for me. She ran down the driveway to meet me, bursting with news about what happened on her trip to the circus with her grandparents earlier in the day. Because she was breathless, it took three tries before I understood the cause of her great excitement: she’d eaten cotton candy!

We went to church the next morning. In a surge of magnanimity no doubt brought on by the tranquility of the weekend, I agreed to a request to chair a new committee. Easter lilies decorated the altar, and Holly made an origami dove, a symbol of peace, in Sunday school.

On Sunday afternoon, I brought Holly to play at her friend Samantha’s house. Since Samantha’s father was home, Samantha’s mother and I decided to go for a walk. We walked for about two and a half miles and talked about the odd and random things that friends talk about on a walk. (Old episodes of Will and Grace, for example, and how to avoid spending a lot of money during a summer vacation in a resort town.) We saw some astonishing flood damage from last month’s deluges, and we saw several other people out on walks.

Weekends like this, spent with family, friends and community, are so satisfying to me, especially when good weather makes it possible to spend a lot of time outside. Due to my daily running commitment, I don’t take time nearly often enough for a walk with a friend; I’m so glad I did yesterday. It was a lovely weekend from beginning to end.

Yet some part of me always wonders whether there’s something a little bit wrong with being so happy to stay within our tiny town of 6,000 for the weekend. Is it contentedness, I wonder, or is it provincialism? Am I content, or complacent? Mild agoraphobia, even? It’s just that there’s plenty I didn’t do this weekend as a result of staying so close to home. I didn’t climb any mountains or see any live theater. I didn’t really support the arts in any way, come to think of it, and I didn’t do much to support any local economy. I had fun with friends and I exercised a lot, but I didn’t expand my cultural horizons at all. Nor did I comfort any afflicted. I didn’t even cross paths with any afflicted.

So it’s important to remember that being content with staying close to home is good but going out of one’s immediate comfort zone is important as well. I felt so lucky this weekend to be so community-bound, but it wouldn’t be good for me to do that too often. It’s just too comfortable for me. I need to push myself to get out into the world, no matter how happy I may be staying as close as possible to home.

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