When we first arrived at Keren and Bobby’s, I expected to only be in their home for a few weeks, and thought I knew them both pretty well. My relationship to Keren goes waaaay back, and Bobby’s as easygoing as they come, so that despite the fact that I only met him about 6 years ago, it feels Iike I’ve known him forever. As our visit progressed, I was proved very wrong on all counts.
When you move into someone’s home for something longer than a week, it takes a tremendous amount of graciousness on their part, and a lot of compromise on both sides. When you have two active boys, (and your hosts are not parents themselves) it adds a whole other level of compromise and blending of ways. Looking back, I can’t imagine a better testing ground for what it’s like to invade someone’s space for a period of time, and coming out the other side actually loving each other more, rather than less. I think we got spoiled this time around.
Keren’s an idea factory, amongst other things. She’s creative, energetic, organized, and a tireless worker. She has big ideas, and knows how to nudge/inspire/motivate/corral a group into participating in an event, having a marvelous time in the process. She’s got chutzpa, heart, a very very underrated opinion of herself, and determination in spades. She’s gold, through and through. I knew her persona as larger than life, and had a good glimpse of her heart before this, but living in her home for 5+ months showed me sides of her personality that I’d never really understood well before. We talked over many trips to Starbucks, and many late night porch sessions, and I got to know the woman underneath the red-headed yellow swallowtail butterfly that most of the world gets to meet. It was an honor.
Bobby, gracious, fun-loving, heart-of-gold Bobby … would give you the shirt off his back if he thought you needed it … and basically did just that for us. When we arrived, we slid into the driveway with our camper, a small fridge full of half-empty condiment jars, some warm leftovers, and a couple hundred bucks in our bank account. Not exactly the means to support ourselves, provide our share of food, and contribute to household expenses in general. Bobby wasn’t fazed at all, at least on the surface. He opened his home, his heart, and his own strained-to-the-max bank account, because this is what you do for family. For someone in need. You take care of folks.
I know it was really hard on him because we arrived at a time when the new house was under gradual as-money-allows renovation, and we brought a tornado of projects and paper and mess otherwise known as Fynn. For someone formerly known as a gracious host-with-the-most, bare floors and patched walls were really hard for him to ignore. He felt like he couldn’t give us what he wanted to, treating us to local events and restaurants and a richly-stocked fridge. Their situation just wasn’t there at that point in time. So we wallowed a bit, together. Took stock of what we had, and what we could do with it. Made cool dining room floors out of porch paint and stencils and leftover primer. Threw parties with what we had. Held contests using makeup and fabric scraps. Built woodboxes out of scavenged lumber. Talked a lot. Played a lot of board games. Made family dinner an event, every single night, even when 5 nights of the week were some form of chicken. Evolved the may-I-please-be-excused thing into a whole ritual of trivia questions and answers and eventually, sign language conversations.
We also railed a bit, bemoaned, struggled, and fought the circumstances we were in. Felt oppressed. Wondered why the jobs weren’t paying much (for any of us), and why we were in this leaky boat, together. We learned to talk through it. Pray about it. Confront it head-on, rather than sideways. We all got a rather forced look at what it was like to live together, work together, communicate effectively together, and, yes, parent a bit together. My boys learned more manners at the hand of Keren and Bobby than I thought possible. Lovingly, firmly, and consistently. We grew into a functional unit that knew when and how to work together, and when to separate for a time when we needed space. We learned how much our emotions affected each other, and it gave me some new tools for labeling and confronting those pesky elephants.
So back to Bobby … for someone way out of his usual comfort zone, and in a rather distressingly difficulty phase of his life … he came through amazingly well. With a few realizations of his own, I think. He learned to turn a blind eye to chaos, to take space when he needed, and to give till it truly hurt. And never ever once begrudged it. No measuring stick was hauled out, to determine what they might have been able to afford were we not living there. No calculations or regrets. Just love, piles of love, and a flood of it following us down the street when we pulled away. From both of them. Tears, big hearts, and big dreams … intertwined in a way I never thought possible. Knowing what I know now, I have every expectation that the next time we spend time together, the roots will go deeper, and the hearts even tighter. It’s a friendship that’s not found its limits, nor do I ever expect it to. It’s just a very beautiful thing, which keeps growing the more it’s worked on.
(xoxoxo you two)