Last Thursday I was invited to a new friend's house. Also an expat, new to Houston, and with young children, she can relate to the stage I am in. This is the phase where you can see all you've left behind piled up like a mountain of longing, but there is very little new richness accumulated to tip the balance.
She served tea, in a teapot, with milk and sugar, in their little pots. She served pastries on a pretty plate. She gave me a housewarming present. We sat at her table and talked for two hours, taking turns snuggling her plump baby. My tears well up just to recall it.
The desire to be known is such a deep and primal longing. I was struck today, reading in Genesis, that the Biblical writers often put sex in those terms. Adam knew his wife, and they had babies. Not just pleasure, or procreation, the greatest shared intimacy is a knowing and being known.
I walk our dog in our neighborhood nearly every night. He loves the exercise and starts nudging my leg and jumping back and forth as soon as dinner is wrapping up. I need the rythm of seeing, and being seen, while I am still unknown here.
In these early weeks I've felt like I am hardly fastened to the planet, that I could somehow come untethered and just slip off into the atmosphere. I think over the myriad of tiny interactions in my life in Sydney - those that seemed to little matter - smiles and waves to friends across the schoolyard in the morning, a text message from a friend, a neighbor bringing over a package delivered while I was out, or seeing the same faces at the post office each time I go. Each slight interaction was a gossamer thread, all crossing over me, securing me in place, and in community.
Walking at night I say hello to each person I pass, needing to be seen, and acknowledged. I slow down for neighbors watering their grass, or tending their gardens. I throw out invitational sentences, and feel I have struck gold when someone exchanges small talk with me, rich upon learning my neighbor's names. Those nights I feel my feet on the pavement, and a calm in my heart, reassured that I will not lose my grip on gravity that night.
I remember my deepest longing as a child, was to have big people really see me, and know me. They spoke over my head, indeed, their whole existence was beyond my level. I longed to have their faces and their eyes come down to me, to take me in. I vowed that when I grew tall, I would stoop, and I would see.
I think that is the value I carry through life. Sometimes the fire burns bright, and other times it is embers, but I want to see people, and to know them. I want to hear their stories and experience those moments of connection. I want the children in my life to know that I hear them, I see them, and they matter.
It has been a long time since my own need to be known has been so accute, but there it is, layed bare, intense, vulnerable.
It doesn't take much, a smile, a salutation, a small generous act, a cup of tea, to help another person feel fastened to this life. Thank you, to my new friend, who kindly did that for me.