I live in a small town in Wisconsin; a town filled with college students, farmers, business people, teachers — and kids.
Lots of kids.
Last night was a fund raiser at Culvers (Yeah Culvers!) for one of the grade schools. So like a good granny, I trudged along with my kids and grandkids to have a Butter Burger and some cheese curds. Oh — and some overly-sweet custard. As you can imagine, the place was packed with kids. Lots and lots of giggly, loud-talking, visiting-friends-at-other-tables kids. Pity the older couples who picked last night to eat out.
Years ago I would have been quite taken with all the rumpus. BG (before grandkids), the world was quiet. Quiet job. Quiet house. Quiet hobbies. But then life reanimated itself in guise of a grandkid. And it hasn’t been the same since.
Waiting for our food to be delivered by one of several guest gradeschool servers, I just sat and watched the dynamics around me. Mothers in ponytails and sweatshirts, dads in ball caps. Kids sharing food, laughing, talking to siblings and friends at other tables, junior servers walking around and around looking for number 50 or 37, some with trays bigger than they were. I was “introduced” to Hayden (who didn’t have a clue what to say…even to my grandson), and other kids who told me their life story of the day.
Some college kids took the corner table; they were as polite to the little servers as they took their cold burgers and chicken strips. Moms toddled behind those too small to serve alone; we all laughed and smiled and helped out when we could.
It was loud and chaotic and it didn’t bother me a bit. I realized I’d rather be a part of the madness than stand outside looking in at it. That the point of life is to get involved in circles bigger than my own now and then. And not to care. To go with the flow.
As we get older we tend to spend too much time by ourselves. Now, sometimes that’s good. An evening, a weekend alone, brings peace and quiet and does wonders for the psyche. But isolation as a substitute for personal time, even with a full time job, is dangerous. The more time you spend alone, the more time you want to be alone. The more segregated you get. From society, from friends, from family. You have no one to bounce ideas of off, to complain to, to dream with. No one else to complain to.
And pretty soon you are left with only your own thoughts, your own opinions, which slowly whither into shadows, as you care less and less about what’s going on around you.
Going out to the madness of Culvers wasn’t necessary what my psyche needed after a long, tiring day at work. But going out to eat, watching families do family things and couples do couple things lightened up my spirit. The madness didn’t bother me because I didn’t have to take it home with me. Like a voyeur, I could participate for a little bit, then leave the kindergartners and their siblings behind.
I’m not encouraging you to spend hours in the middle of a group of kids or shoppers or football fans. Find a way to weasel your way into the party, get your chaos fix, then move on. Maybe it’s shopping the day after Thanksgiving. A live concert. A high school or college football game. Even a bowling tournament. Watch the people. Laugh at the people. Be one with the people. Just enough to get your adrenaline going and your reactions moving. Then go home to your quiet abode and feel good about being a part of something bigger than you.
Life is too short not to take part in the madness. For that too shall pass, along with the chance of getting one more song in, one more school play, one more tailgate party.
And nothing is better after spending a few hours with children than going home, sitting in your favorite comfy chair, taking your shoes off, and going, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Silence.”