I gave my husband, Charlie, a spiffy new Richmond Cohousing T-shirt this morning which fit him to a “T” and looks really sharp. At the same time, I gently suggested that it might be time to retire that shabby old gray shirt he seemed so fond of, the one that lost its shape and began to fray months ago. I hinted that repurposing his old favorite as a cleaning cloth might make the most sense.
He reluctantly agreed but wistfully reminded me that in the past, when our daughter, Dell, was younger, we used to save his old T-shirts as painting smocks for Dell and her girlfriends to wear whenever they got involved in various sloppy projects. Charlie was always the one to supervise a job like that and relished the role. No one was ever better at it than he was.
Now, with our daughter grown and gone, we have little reason to save an old T-shirt as a smock. We both love kids and are good with them, but we don’t have grandchildren now or prospects for any in the future. There aren’t even many children nearby in our older, quiet neighborhood in Richmond’s Near West End.
Actually, a few kids do live near us, but we rarely see them. They seem to be either scheduled up with activities around the area or busy inside at home under close supervision, safe from the reach of dangerous strangers, but also missing the opportunity to become friends with an elderly retired neighbor who was (and is) an exemplary dad and could easily contribute as much to their development as he would benefit from the connection himself. What a sad commentary on modern American suburban life.
Meanwhile, Charlie maintains close ties with Dell in Atlanta, editing Wikipedia articles with her over the phone on the Finnish-Russian war that preceded World War II (who knew?), on forensic chemistry (really!), and on any other topics they find of mutual interest for their remarkable collaboration.
Fortunately, Charlie and I are also full members of the Richmond Cohousing community, a group committed to planning an intentional neighborhood to be built in about two years somewhere within a six-mile radius of Richmond. I’ve been exploring the concept for several years now and am totally committed to it, while Charlie’s less familiar with it but warming up to it more and more. Among its many attractions is the chance to be part of a thriving multi-generational community where genuine cross-generational friendships are the norm, not an exception.
I fully expect that before long we’ll be saving Charlie’s old T-shirts as painting smocks again, and he’ll have the chance once more to oversee a group of youngsters energetically making a mess painting, working with clay, dying Easter eggs, or throwing themselves into some other project that would threaten their good clothes otherwise. Can’t wait!
Adele and Charlie are founding members of Richmond Cohousing and Adele does a fabulous job of managing our spreadsheets and budgets as Treasurer (big thanks!).