Visitors

Moving provides the great disadvantage of distanced friendships. Folks we used to see on a regular basis become rare visitors, and vice versa. (The road to Asheville is, after all, two-way.) Still, the advantage of that is the pleasure of spending time with “old” friends.

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Time passes so quickly that it’s difficult to know when someone goes from “friend” to “old friend.” How long do we have to know each other? How quickly can time disappear? Those questions seem somehow connected.

“How long has it been since we last spent time together?” we were trying to decide last night.

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Long enough that are children are no longer the children of our memories. L now talks and runs and schemes: a far cry from the toddler our friends last saw. And their son: in my mind, he’s still L’s age, and then he walks in the door.

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He’s a school boy now, with new interests and new abilities.

“He wants to learn the guitar,” his mother says. We get L’s little guitar out and he strums a bit, fingering a note or two, though not quite sure where. At some point, hopefully, L will develop an interest in learning some instrument: hopefully not tuba or drums.

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The interest in billiards already exists, but I suspect (from personal longing) that it exists in all children.

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There’s something almost intoxicating about sixteen fast-moving balls in an enclosed space.

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Visiting with children has its risks, though. We let them stay up beyond their bedtimes, knowing that once they go to bed, we’ll stay up for another hour or three. The hope is the vain hope of all parents: that by putting off bedtime by an hour and a half, we’re somehow magically putting of the wakeup time by the same amount. It never works, and yet we’re hopeful each and every time.

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And it’s a trying situation, no matter which side of the guest/host relationship you’re on: if you’re the host, you don’t want your daughter yelling at a little past seven waking up your guests when everyone has only been in bed a few hours. If you’re the guest, you don’t want your daughter yelling at a little past seven waking up your hosts when everyone has only been in bed a few hours.

But if you’re L, you wake up when you wake up, and a ritual is sacred: there must be chocolate soy milk, warmed in the microwave for thirty seconds, and stirred with a specific spoon. Etiquette has no place in a thirsty girl’s thinking.