I originally published this post over a year ago for one of the online magazines I was writing for. As my life has come nearly full circle now, I feel the need to share it again. Please let me know your thoughts and then check back this week for a follow up story.
May 24, 2015
A while ago I was introduced to the unique and wonderful concept of “crappy dinners”. I read an article online about hosting one and it fascinated me – this idea of embracing our imperfections and just going with it. The idea was that instead of feeling the need to have your house clean, your children looking prim and proper, and you dressed in your Sunday best, you instead welcome friends over any time with an open door policy. Instead of hurrying about to clean up the house, you say “Oh well, it’s dirty and people live here” to your friends and they simply understand because, let’s face it, their house is the same way. You mean your kids aren’t perfect?? How wonderful, because neither are your friends’ kids!
I have always been, and remain, a big believer in the mentality of “it takes a village” to raise a child. Before my son’s father and I divorced we had ten people living in our house! Four were our kids, four other adults were roommates and various family. We had a beautiful old five bedroom colonial in the country that we were constantly working on. There was a reason, after all, that we got it so cheaply. But it had space to spare and we were happy to take anyone in who needed some help. We filled that house with family and laughter, and would have fit more people in had their need arose for a place to stay.
Our village was fascinating to me, and very much fit into the mentality of “crappy dinners”. The different people, lifestyles, and personalities represented in our “Home for Lost Souls” was incredible. My then-husband’s first wife stayed with us for a time and she and I would take turns cooking dinner each night. The variety of food in that house was always interesting, as was our dynamic.
Previously I don’t think my ex’s first wife believed in the village mentality, at least not as it applied to me as her sons’ stepmom. She had her own village and saw no need for me. As the six years of my marriage went on, this changed. We became friends. We became part of each other’s village.
I won’t say sharing a house was easy. I won’t say I recommend it to anyone in a step family. I will say that my ex and I saw a need and we wanted to help. I firmly believe that if you have children with someone you are forever *some* type of family. Those children make it so. It’s up to you how you want to envision your village and how you want to run your home. Even a step parent has choices about that. We all have our boundaries, and those are healthy to have.
I did find that when I let my guard down just a little and stopped questioning every action, I really started to open up to an extended village and that village helped me through a lot. It provided a calm in the storm and I loved our band of lost souls.
Now my life has taken many turns. Our Home for Lost Souls has since disbanded and taken on new forms in various ways. Oddly enough, though some of us don’t speak anymore, we are still a village. We are still connected by these kids and their lives. I’ve worked hard over the last year to find a new village, and I believe I have started to build one. I love my village, as does my son. His looks slightly different than mine and includes people at his father’s house who I may never meet, but who are still part of my extended village.
As I move into this new time in my life, I plan to have many “crappy dinners” with friends. That same home that was once the Home for Lost Souls will become that again, though now some of us are found. Every Friday night friends and family will gather around the table and I hope we will form an even larger village. I hope for love and laughter and light in that home and for the people who enter it