I’m back from a lovely few days in New York, in which I visited The Island (as in Long), The City (there’s only one), and what the inhabitants of both places incorrectly but lovingly refer to as “Upstate”, even though I was only about 40 miles north of Manhattan. I saw wonderful friends, ate well, caught up with family, laughed a lot, and returned to Boston with a car full of Gino’s pizza (voted 3rd best pizza on Long Island!), as there is no decent NY-style pizza to be had in Massachusetts. At all. Anywhere.
I apparently also left with something unexpected. My friend’s parting words to me were, “Drive north! Your Long Island accent has never been as strong as it is right now.” I’m pretty confident I lost it again somewhere in central Connecticut. Close call.
Being on sabbatical and having so much leisure time has given me the opportunity to see and spend time with people at their convenience, which has been wonderful. The weeks ahead are filling up with lunch dates and dinner plans, because I have time to reach out to others and offer an open-ended invitation to spend time together.
I’ve been back from France for a month. The process of looking back and sharing memories and conversation with others has brought the experience into sharper focus. I’ve realized that what I miss the most about that almost magical month is the socialization. Not just the people who I met, although I do miss them (a lot!), but the ease with which we could all be together. With the exception of our nightly homework and the occasional family or work check-in, most of us had no other responsibilities. What a gift to be surrounded by fun, adventurous, curious people who were almost always available! I mean, when was the last time you had a friend just drop by your home?
I have wonderful friends here in Boston, but the responsibilities of life, parenting, work, and activities make it difficult to be spontaneous. It’s hard to find people (or make oneself) available to just be together, on a whim, on, say, a random Tuesday night. But I’m convinced that those kind of spontaneous gatherings give a richness to our relationships that can be hard to develop any other way.
There have been many things about my time in France that I’ve had to let go of. Most of them involve bread. And cheese. But there are other elements of the experience – the easy fun of socialization first among them – that I really want to fight for, and hold on to, and try to translate into something that will work in our overly busy, hyper-scheduled American culture. I haven’t figured it out yet, but I’m working on it, and I know I’m not alone in wanting this.