Missing Housemates

Via Helen Rittelmeyer on Twitter, here is a lovely post by Brooke Conti on what we miss when we miss friendships from our younger days:

When I was in my twenties, I was enmeshed in my friends’ lives in ways that went beyond our constant phone calls. We actually lived with each other, even after college, and even after most of us had gotten our own apartments. If we lived in different cities, we’d visit each other for long weekends—and if we lived in the same city, we’d crash at each others’ places when it got too late to go home for the night. We’d sleep in the same room, use the same bathroom, make breakfast together. Or we’d hang out at each others’ places for hours as afternoon turned into evening, watching bad t.v., reading magazines, drinking a bottle of wine and doing our makeup as we tried to decide what to do with the night.

Now we’re busier, with work and other things. Almost all of us are partnered and half of us have kids, and spending large blocks of time together is a trickier proposition. Even when Cosimo and I stay overnight with friends, it’s usually just one night (if we’re traveling), or there’s some event we’re all going to (reunion, sporting event), so the rhythms aren’t those of real life.

But over the past year, I’ve stayed for two or three nights, just by myself, with four or five different friends (and their partners and kids, if they have ’em), some of whom I’d never before seen in pyjamas, or whose kitchens I’ve never experienced flooded with early-morning sunlight.

It’s been a treat. The greatest luxury is simply that of time: all those hours in which to have the kinds of conversations that emerge only over a day or two of doing other things—fixing meals, taking the dog for a walk, running errands—and that wouldn’t necessarily come out over a 45-minute phone call or a hasty lunch. But there’s also the special intimacy that comes from witnessing someone’s daily routines with her partner or her child or her pets, from seeing the corner of her kitchen table where she pays her bills, or learning how her coffee maker works. I like that intimacy, and I miss it.

Amen to all of this.

I’ve had a couple of similar experiences recently. A few months ago, I flew down to Florida to visit a couple of old college friends and also a couple I knew from grad school, whose daughter is my goddaughter. These friends and I email and talk on the phone frequently, but nothing compares to waking up and discussing dollhouses with three-year-old Callie over baked oatmeal. We never do that over FaceTime.

Closer to home, I recently arrived back from a trip and realized, too late, that my houseguests were staying a day longer than I’d anticipated, which meant I didn’t have a bed to sleep on in my house. My ride from the airport quickly offered the guest bedroom at her house, a house she shares with her husband and another couple and their child. Waking up the next morning and joining these friends for a leisurely breakfast in their home was new, and delightfully so. There is—it’s true—a certain closeness that’s only available in moments like that, despite all the other ways you may be intimately involved in one another’s lives.

One of the things I’ve begun to realize as I continue to write and speak about friendship in various Christian venues is that many Christians are eager to give new honor to friendship: Pastors are ready to preach about it, campus ministers are ready to encourage their students to become more mindful of it, friends themselves are eager to solidify their bonds with each other (through already-existing traditions like godparenthood). But a question that remains uncomfortably unanswered in many of my conversations is whether we’d be willing to consider staying put in a given job, neighborhood, or parish so that we stand a better chance of cultivating the kind of friendship that, as Conti says, “wouldn’t necessarily come out over a 45-minute phone call or a hasty lunch.” If we don’t consider these kinds of nitty-gritty practicalities of time and space, will Christian friendship be able regain the honor we’d like it to have?

I don’t mean to turn Conti’s post into a tidy moral lesson. The tone of the post isn’t chiding; it’s celebratory. Reading it makes me happy for what I’ve had in the past and on occasion, and yet it also seems to name a longing that remains unmet for many of us. That’s part of the point too.

4 thoughts on “Missing Housemates

  1. Pingback: Missing Housemates » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog

  2. Pingback: Missing Housemates - Hardcore Catholic

  3. Pingback: This Week’s Good Reads – Pastor Dave Online

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