(I did not set out this evening to compose my one hundredth post. I had no idea, in fact, that I reached such a number. But once I logged in and realized, it seemed fitting that I should note the milestone. And so consider it noted. And consider I would have titled this post: THE EX-WIFE KIBBUTZ or THE COMPOUND or some such thing).
Child Two was in the pool when I got home from work. He was swimming with his cousin and after two waterlogged hours, both children were pruney and shivering and thrilled with the freedom that only spring break can bring. Ex-Wife was their escort. Sig Other is out of town and I was working late. But the pool was heated and the day was toasty and so I’d texted Ex-Wife and encouraged her to bring the kids if they wanted to swim. The dogs, Alpha and Beta, were thrilled to have the youthful company. And I loved walking into a full house at 8:30 on a Wednesday night.
This is not a nightly occurrence but neither is it highly unusual in our home. It might seem strange to some – the idea that Ex-Wife would be hanging out with the kids at our house with neither Sig Other nor me present. But it isn’t strange to me at all. In fact, to me, it’s as normal as butter on white toast. And in fact, I encourage it. I liked coming home to Ex-Wife and the kids.
Its here that I should probably confess that I am a firm believer in The Compound. I support the notion that it takes a village. I would love nothing more than to live in close proximity to my nearest and dearest on a commune or kibbutz (albeit a deluxe one with fancy sheets and a high end kitchen). In my Fantasy Compound, there are individual homes with private living spaces and complete seclusion facing the back of the property. The homes are laid in a circle with the front doors facing toward the middle where there is a large communal space featuring a spectacular industrial kitchen, an open living room with a huge fireplace and a long, spacious dining table. Most nights in the fantasy compound would be spent in the private space. But once or twice a week, residents of the commune would come together for meals and games and hanging out. Children would roam free from house to house on the compound and there would always be someone to talk to or play with. Is that so wrong?
I do acknowledge that the compound is a fantasy. And I acknowledge that group life is not always so easy. Issues as mundane as “what’s for dinner” become magnified in a large group. And the complications of divorce make the compound even less ideal. But still the fantasy persists.
There are moments, though few and far between, when fantasy has intersected with reality: a summer not so many years ago when several families met in Ojai, or this past Christmas with four families in Palm Springs. And in these moments the greatest joy has been sitting back by a pool or at a dinner table watching a gaggle of kids, aged six to sixteen, laughing and playing and running together. We adults sit back, eat too much, drink too much and try to capture the magic of the moment.
Tonight, when I walked into a house filled with children and laughter, I had a a different kind of moment. Tonight, for just a few minutes, I was in an alternate version of the fantasy compound – but this version was real. Ex-Wife and I formed our own strange village and in it there are laughing children and unconventional situations. And everyone is happy. At least in this moment.