A GRADUAL CONGREGATION – Marilyn Armstrong

It turns out, there are a lot of variations of congregate meaning “to get together, join together, group together, party hearty.”

With some fish, it also means collaboration to make baby fish. Or is that conjugation?

But there is no word which means “someone who congregates.” No congregator. Congregationalist? Congregationistic? Congruent?

 Way back when, in the days when I had energy, enthusiasm, and I liked most people, I was much more enthusiastic about “getting together.” I was considered sociable and I almost agreed with that.

I was never quite as sociable many thought. I was a party “edge person.” I would look for whoever was standing along at the edges of a party and engage them in conversation. I never like big groups of people in one place because you couldn’t have a conversation with anyone when everyone was trying to talk.

I made exceptions when I gave the party because if it was my party, I didn’t expect to engage in conversation. Party giving was more about flitting about and making sure everyone else was having a good time. I gave a few good parties through the decades (generations?), but mostly, I preferred having a friend or two or three — and a great conversation about everything.

Remember conversations that lasted until dawn? We covered philosophy, government, the meaning of life. Travel to the stars, reincarnation and the best books we’d read lately. No one was bored or left out.

Later, people got old. Died. Drifted into a world of their own, moved to senior housing “somewhere near their kids” which was always hundreds of miles from us. Others simply drifted.

What we had previously held in common — work — it was no longer relevant after we all had stopped working.

Those of us with functional marriages who really liked our partners have been lucky. Singleness is fine when you are active enough to travel and gadabout, but these days, it’s an abiding joy to have a partner whose hand you can hold while you watch old movies, cuddled by dogs with cold noses.

We’ve been talking lately about how few friends we have remaining. This isn’t unusual at our age. People leave and don’t come back. Many others don’t like traveling. Or driving any distance. More don’t like going to places with which they are unfamiliar. Everyone like their own bed.

If you have pets, it gets increasingly difficult to find someone to take care of them, especially as your pets get old, too.

We still have friends. They are old friends. Friends forever. Who knew the people we knew and share memories of the times through which we’ve lived. Have common political and philosophical beliefs — and hopefully enjoy the same movies.

So let us congregate to our greater enjoyment! Or try, anyhow.

STURBRIDGE WITH COUSINS

72-Garry and Marilyn in SturbridgeWe don’t get to see each other often. We’ve always lived several hundred miles apart, even when we were kids … but the distance didn’t matter as much back then. We were young, we had energy. We didn’t mind flying or driving.

Flying was a lot easier before terrorism became the biggest thing in the world. The roads were in better shape and there was a lot less traffic, so driving was easier. Gasoline was cheap before anyone noticed oil reserves wouldn’t last forever.

In the life of a family, ones cousins are often the people we know the longest and best throughout our lives. If you are lucky, and have cousins your own age whose company you enjoy, you get the  magical experience of remembering things together that possibly only the two of you remember.

72-roberta-closeup-sturbridge-070816_016At this point, my cousin and I are probably the only two people alive who remember playing with little iron toys that were kept in a special closet in Aunt Ethel’s apartment. Which was downstairs in that brownstone on East 96th Street in Brooklyn.

Four apartments, two up, two down. A flight of stairs in the middle. A hallway. Three siblings shared the building, plus a neighbor who had lived in that building with them … forever … or however many years that represented.

My mother’s two older sisters, lived on the second floor with their husbands. Until they grew up and moved away, other cousins lived up and downstairs too.

We remember together. Funny stuff, like how we were going to go into the desert to dig up artifacts. We remember this as we seek the shade on a summer day in Sturbridge.

We are married. We have children. I have a grandchild. We talk about who’s doing what. And retirement. And are glad that we still know one another and we can remember.