8 Masa’il 167 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head: Trio, “Da Da Da”
“You’re WILLINGLY moving into a co-op house with a baby?” asked a friend of mine at a co-op party. He was in his thirties, but still seemed surprised that I would leave my co-op in downtown Madison to help start a family friendly co-op house several miles away. I would be joining a family from Chicago–Nicholas and Samantha with their baby, Cheyenne (not their real names)–in starting the co-op from scratch. She would be the first in a string of kids I’d refer to as “my youngesst housemates.” We had a lot of cleaning to do, and we needed to recruit five more house members as well establish how the co-op would be organized.
In some ways my friend’s question was ironic. His co-op house is across the street from the Kollege Klub–aka Drunk College Student Central. In my part of downtown Madison it was also frequently noisy, to the point where I had the police nuisance noise line on speed-dial. When I moved into the new co-op it was nice to lie in bed at night and listen to the crickets and cicadas–and no drunk college students. Nevertheless, living in a co-op house with a new baby would be a new experience for me, and I didn’t quite know what to expect.
It was fascinating to watch Cheyenne grow. Shortly after we moved in, I went out to dinner with her mother and we took Cheyenne in her baby carriage. She remained in her baby carriage next to the table as we ate and talked. Cheyenne wasn’t yet at the age where she’d babble, laugh or acknowledge my presence, but for some reason she found the Christmas lights on the wall at the restaurant absolutely mesmerizing. At one point it almost seemed like she was trying to communicate with them, as if she were ET communicating with the Mother Ship.
I watched Cheyenne as she started crawling, walking and talking. She started sitting in her highchair with us during dinner. I remember her parents would tell her that she needed to finish a certain food, and she would look towards me as if to appeal their decision, and I’d say, “Sorry kiddo, it’s your parents’ call.” If she was wanting attention while one or both of her parents were occupied, I’d sometimes distract her and play with her–and often read her a book. For a couple of months she would greet me when I came home, saying “Book? Book?”–earning her the title of Book Zombie.
It blows me away to realize that I have been in this child’s life as her housemate since she was 1 1/2 months old. She actually doesn’t remember life without me as a housemate. I’m not as close to her as her parents are, of course. But I occupy a space in her life that is fairly unique–in many ways closer than her grandparents.
Eight months ago, another family moved into our house. Autumn brought her two children, Dylan and Grace (also not their real names). Grace is just two months older than Cheyenne. The two girls have a tight relationship in many ways, though both of them are still learning to share and realize that they are not at the center of the universe.
Now Samantha is pregnant with her second child, due any day now. She is going to have a home birth in her family’s bedroom. To my knowledge, this is the first time such an event has happened in this house. We are very excited.
I have zero regrets about moving in with children. I feel that the children have added a new, interesting and colorful dimension to my life. We are a family-friendly co-op, but I think that we are more than that. Between the presence of the children and the unique chemistry among the adults, we do really feel like a family here. To me, this is what co-op life was meant to be.