Common Ground

Los Alamos

So Mr. Chandler writes he has nothing in common with Mr. Stradling,  but Mr. Stradling believes he might have a few things in common with Mr. Chandler.

Six or seven summers ago I was hurrying along the path alongside Fuller Lodge on a Friday night in route to the concert.  My youngest was with me — at that gruesome age — thirteen or fourteen.  There was a mother and daughter standing in the path looking totally lost.  They were sort of our doppelgangers:  a tired lady with a teen.  

We began to chat.  They had just arrived in Los Alamos that day from somewhere far away and seemed relieved to have someone to talk to.  It turned out they were homeschoolers like us so I gave them our number and invited them to our pool.  As we were getting ready to continue on toward the concert the Mom asked, “By the way, what church do you attend?”  I replied we didn’t go to church.  

Had we instantaneously exchanged our tanned skin for plush red fur and sprouted devil horns and long pointy tails with pitchforks to boot, the mood could not have become more icy.  They practically ran away.  I would have been insulted had it somehow not been just too silly.

Another encounter:  an informal homeschool group which met at the Farmers’ Market a decade or so ago.  An older lady with two little kids asked me if I was the “Homeschool Lady” and said she needed advice on where to find some playmates for her grandkids that she was raising and homeschooling.  I mentioned a group which I thought might work at the Unitarian Church when she began shouting at me something to the effect that the Unitarians were the earthly face of Satan.  The kids looked on.

So if we all hate each other and have nothing in common what will the future hold?  If we can’t go on a playdate to the pool or share a coffee cake at the playlot God help us.  The bright side is most of the time we are able to look beyond our differences and cherish our common humanity.  Two decades raising kids in Los Alamos left us with so many wonderful memories of days spent with those we had absolutely nothing in common with other than a desire to learn and have fun.

If I taught my kids absolutely nothing other than how to play in threes as well as twos and to have an amazing afternoon sledding with families with opposing political and religious beliefs, I would consider myself pretty successful.  Maybe it’s because my spouse was born and raised in another country.  When you are lucky enough to spend a lot of time abroad you get to see how goofy it is when bickering Americans claim to have nothing in common.

Maybe Mr. Chandler and Mr. Stradling should get together for coffeecake.