I love having house guests. It was one of the things that I loved most about our little Viroqua farmette: we could easily accommodate guests. And while I love the house we are in now with all of my heart, it is smaller and we are bigger and the way in which we fill it doesn't leave much space for house guests. Especially if they need much privacy.
Possibly, the thing that I love most about having someone visit and stay awhile, is the way in which it shores up the boundary that exists between my nuclear family and the rest of the world. It allows me to see in a new way just how distinct we are as well as how fluid and connected we are as a family.
This summer, for the first time in years, we had an extended houseguest. Sam, the demo driver. He slept on our couch and played with our kids and once drank the last cup of coffee before I had had any. Sam was here when Chris was home and the 2 of them together ran mountain bike demos throughout the midwest for most of August. They were in and out. When they were in, that meant not just extra people but also an extra huge van parked out front and countless bikes in various phases of cleaning and maintenance scattered across my lawn amidst the dogs and chickens and children and bunny.
Sam has known Chris for awhile, but had just met the rest of us when he landed on our couch. Chris is very much not concealed. He is himself and as such is very much open and honest and available. He is easy to know, and yet I was curious about whether Sam's perception of Chris had shifted at all after spending so much time in Chris' personal space and close up to all of Chris' people. So I asked him. He thought about it for awhile and this is what he said: that getting to know me and the kids and spend time in our lives and witness Chris' relationship with each of us, just made everything about Chris that much cooler.
Which was the exact perfect answer. And is immensely affirming in terms of something that I have really been considering about us as a family. Chris and I have both done a lot of work with co-dependency, differentiation and autonomy. We have been together for the greater part of our adult lives at this point and have had our share of (massive) bumps in the road. We spend a lot of time considering ourselves, our relationship, our family. But as much as all of our individuating is so very important, there is something so profound for me in considering that the whole of our family is greater than the sum of its parts. That by virtue of one another we each become better and are made more whole and more real.
I recently stumbled upon this quote by Tim Lott on social media that really speaks to what I mean. It is geared more toward sibling intimacy but I think speaks beautifully to the whole of the family as well.
"Intimacy, whatever its source, implies the absence of effort. Every meeting with a stranger, even a close friend, tends to be circumvented by unwritten rules-particularly that the conversation be kept aloft, that the wine be kept flowing, that a level of performance is maintained. In the intimacy of the family home, behind secret walls, these strictures dissolve. Closeness emerges, ironically, from conflict as much as anything else. The freedom to argue, even yell at one another, without fearing that the consequences will be catastrophic. Children's threats of eternal estrangements- the "I hate you's", the tantrums and angry silences- all are possible only because of (as well as being symptoms of) intimacy."
*the picture that I used for this post shares an image of another friend that we have seen quite a bit of over here. we are each of us so grateful for her frequent presence in our lives. love you v.