Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Joining in

It's sort of embarrassing, and I didn't like to mention it, but last Wednesday I took the kids swimming.

That's not the embarrassing bit. It was when I had to explain to Shark, Squirrel and Tiger why their local home ed group, the one composed of umpteen friends, didn't turn up. At first, I couldn't understand where everyone was. Didn't they know Wednesday 27 April was the day for swimming fun?

I'll take the blame, and say it's my inability to fit in with time.

Days, weeks, they all blend together. Maybe I just haven't mastered that trick of reading a calendar with actual dates attached. Although it is a little awkward not to be able to read an email that has words in red letters, two screen-inches high, Meet at swimming pool 4 May.

Fortunately for me, the home ed group arrived today, 4 May! Same date and time as us!

But some of the kids didn't recognise Shark, Squirrel and Tiger. Their hair is different, Shark's within a whisper of meeting me eye-to-eye, everyone of them is taller, bigger, rounder.

Some of the parents didn't recognise me, either. I'm wearing different clothes, I lost weight, I became timid with the hair colour, after everything I'd said.

Admittedly, some of the parents or their kids I didn't recognise in return. People shrink, they grow bigger, they change clothes. A lot happens over a year. New people join, some folks move away. There are hellos to make and renew; a family returns from three years in the North, a child is starting out again without school, a new baby sister gurgles at the table.

Afterwards, I told Shark, Squirrel and Tiger, don't be sad if you swim alone, incognito, for a while. The world is a strange one; it's hard to build consistency through the years, but by and large, in this community with home ed, we do.

Think about it; we have these common bonds. We all know how each of us made difficult decisions, how we went out of the common way and chose an uncommon path, and now we all know how it's possible. To everyone else, we might misstep, do it wrong, be not normal. But from here, we know there are thousands more families, just like us, looking at the world from this side. We know too, how we'll make mistakes, make a mess, find understanding, help out, seek consolation, and wring our hands over something. By these ways we'll always know each other.

I tell Shark, Squirrel and Tiger, don't worry. We might go away but we'll come back. Here, in a few weeks, all the routines will be ordinary again and the faces familiar. You'll wonder if we ever went away, and you'll exclaim how on earth could I ever make a mistake over an ordinary Wednesday swimming date?

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