Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A weekend for gathering

Ironically, it turned out not to be such a bad weekend for holiday gatherings after all.

If the Saturday before Christmas is (despite Black Friday myths to the contrary) actually the busiest shopping day of the year, then the Saturday that falls mid-December, ten days or so before Christmas depending on the year, is surely the busiest party day of the year. And this year was no exception: we had four different invitations for the weekend just past.

But of course, like people all over the country, by Friday evening, we didn’t feel like going to a single event. With the worst possible kind of news coursing off the TV screen and through the radio wires and down the Internet transom, we didn’t want to go anywhere or see anyone.

But we went anyway, and in retrospect, I realize that it was better than not going anywhere. I was not in a mood to take solace from anyone else’s words. I did not want to join a prayer service or take part in a candlelight vigil. I didn’t want to read anyone’s reflections via Facebook post or even listen to the president’s address. I felt the same way I have after other tragedies on a national scale: there is not one thing that anyone can say that will make this one iota better, and I would rather be alone with my thoughts than submit to what will feel like empty noise.

In the end, though, it was surprisingly therapeutic to be with other people: first at a large gathering of acquaintances, then at a neighborhood party, and then at the home of a close friend with just a few other families present. All of these were holiday parties planned weeks ago, and only at one did we specifically discuss the events in Connecticut that had happened just a day or two before. No one tried to offer words of comfort or solace. We just….talked. And kept each other company. And made ourselves present with each other.

It was no more or less than that, really: just being in each other’s company rather than alone. I still can’t explain why it felt unexpectedly okay, but it did. Sometimes it’s all we have for comfort: the presence of other people. And sometimes, despite my inclinations to be alone during the worst times, huddling in a group is the best response we have.

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