I have a group of friends who have gathered for dinner on Wednesday nights during the summer. We've rotated homes and have feasted and visited and held each other's children every week for the past two and a half months. Conversations have led to some of the group helping one family put in a new patio at their home. One dinner was a meal out, purchased by a member who won $10,000 in a radio contest. We've had hamburgers grilled out, eaten hot dogs and brats, savored smoked salmon, eaten in restaurants, listened to good music. Each week is different. Always, we have a good time and enjoy each other's company.
Last night, however, must go down as the most unique plan we've had thus far.
We each brought a box of our favorite childhood cereal. Boxes of Apple Jacks, Cookie Crisp, Fruity Pebbles, Honeycomb, Cap'n Crunch, Lucky Charms, and Life filled the table. Mimosas were made for the "adults" in the group to enjoy before dinner, and a stack of styrofoam bowls was placed in the middle of the table. Each person looked over the choices and made her/his first selection. Each had his/her own strategy for sampling. Most of us ate some of each kind.
The only one with any sense, 4-year old Jade, slipped a box of Kashi Heart-to-Heart on the table about half-way through the sugar-fest.
The conversation around the house was lively, peppered with laughter and stories. The tastes brought back memories. Chad sat on a chair in the living room, eyes closed, a slight hint of a smile on his face. He started waving his hand over a brightly colored bowl of Fruity Pebbles, transferring his carefully crafted wine-tasting skills to the evening's event. The bouquet of fruitiness instantly took him back to a year in his childhood. "It's 1983," he said. "I'm sitting at the table in the kitchen, the sun barely up. Oh, this is so good."
"How old were you in 1983," I asked. Mike and Emily waited with me for his answer.
The year was a special one for me. "That's the year I graduated high school."
Mike chuckled and announced as he rolled his eyes, "I graduated from college that year!"
Emily, who was sitting on the floor holding baby Roman in her arms, a bowl of Cookie Crisp resting next to her, smiled shyly as she shared, "I wasn't even born then," and her contribution was met with groans.
I love this group of people. We met when we went through the new members class at church together back in January. I still don't understand what brought the group of us together. There were others in the class. They were included in our earliest plans to meet regularly, but many of them never responded. Others joined us at first, but eventually dropped out. We range in age from 21 or 22 to post-retirement age. But, Chad said it best after Emily's comment last night, "This group is ageless. I love that."
He's right. For such a wide range in ages, we share a lot in common. Most importantly, I think, is our common desire for community, to have friends we can count on, people who will love the children, who help put in a patio, who show up for opening night at a member's art show. We are friends who offer to "take out" the other candidate in a job search. We are people who will pray for a baby who has a seizure and stay glued to the computer waiting for a report from the EEG the day he went to the doctor, nervously checking in with each other as if he was our own flesh and blood, hoping, praying that his anxous parents would find peace and comfort in our concern.
And we are a people who can playfully return to our childhood, sampling the sugary sweetness of styrofoam-like marshmallows and the waxy/oily aftertaste of chemically-induced fruitiness. We are a people who can wonder together why Apple Jacks don't really tast like apples, who enjoy the mouth-tearing crunchiness of Cap'n Crunch, a people who celebrate the brillance of chocolate chip cookies in milk for breakfast.