We live in a closeknit town, so that’s unusual. I typically run into people I know every time I go out to do errands. But over the summer, it’s different. People cycle in and out of vacation time and time at home during the summer; without the kids’ sports, I don’t run into their teammates’ parents at the field; and without school in session, we don’t run into each other at campus events the way we do during the school year.Normally in September, it all changes. Sports seasons start up; bus stop conversations resume where they left off in the spring; and almost every year we attend a big annual party just after Labor Day at which I can count on seeing three hundred or so of my closest Carlisle acquaintances.
But now with both kids on the middle school schedule, I don’t have to stand in the pick-up area after school to retrieve them; nor do I stand at the bus stop with them in the morning. And I missed the big annual party because it coincided with Tim’s birthday celebration in Maine.
So by the time the third week of school began, I was feeling really out of the swing of things. I was starting to feel like I’d never catch up with everyone, never get through all the “Where did you go over the summer?” and “How did your kids like camp?” and “Who does your son have for kindergarten?” conversations.Then it occurred to me that maybe it didn’t really matter that much. I do like catching up with people, but maybe it wasn’t as critical as I’d long assumed that I talk with three hundred of my closest friends about what they did over the summer and how their kids like school this year.
Once I realized that, it made me think about which friends I did most want to catch up with, and I acknowledged that there were several. So I started scheduling coffee dates. And dinner get-togethers. And weekend walks.In the past five days I’ve had lunch with one friend, coffee with another and dinner with a third; this weekend we’re getting together with a family we all like, and on Sunday afternoon I’m going walking with another friend. Having to make the effort to reconnect with people has compelled me to prioritize a little bit, to recognize that while cocktail party chatter with three hundred people or so can certainly be fun, what’s really rewarding is to sit down over a meal or a cup of coffee with one friend and dig deep into what’s been going on.
So that seems to be the focus this fall: reconnecting with friends on a deeper level. Taking the time to find out what’s really happening in everyone’s lives. Not just “How was the trip to London?” but “What was the most surprising part of the trip?” Not just “Did your daughter have fun at camp?” but “How did you feel about seeing her leave home for the first time?”I’m still hoping to catch up with lots of those other friends too, but I’m realizing there’s no rush. All the small talk and casual conversations will unfold over the course of another school year. At the moment, it’s more rewarding to find time for fewer people and longer conversations. It reminds me of why all these friendships matter so much to me in the first place.