We spent most of yesterday in the common house (the shared portion of our building, which contains a community kitchen, living room, dining room, playroom, laundry facilities, and other spaces jointly owned and used). Our experiences over the course of the day paint a pretty good picture of cohousing life (good and otherwise), so I thought I'd share a few moments.
- Our extended stay in the common house was due to the fact that it was our turn to cook for the Monday night dinner. This meal series is optional, but if you choose to participate, you prepare dinner one Monday and then get to eat the rest of the Mondays when others cook. Each rotation lasts about two months. It's great - dinner already ready when you show up seven out of eight weeks - and offers much more variety and healthful food than we would probably prepare on our own.
- I'd chosen a menu that involved a ridiculous amount of chopping (especially when one cook has a sub-par arm) so we ended up being there MUCH longer than I expected. In the time that we were there, countless neighbors and friends wandered through to pick up mail, do laundry, check the community calendar, watch the World Cup on the satellite TV in the living room, or just see who was around to say hi. This allowed us to take chopping breaks as needed and also to give Natalie a break from lying on the floor watching us chop, as many of our friends were eager to spend some time Naterpillar-cuddling.
- One of our neighbors, who envisions herself as the keeper-of-all-rules, scolded us for having Natalie in the kitchen. "Children aren't allowed in the kitchen!" What were we supposed to do with a two-month old? Put her in the playroom to entertain herself?!
- When the mail carrier arrived with the day's mail, she stopped in the kitchen to wash her hands and admire Natalie. She then asked, "Are you the one who had the baby at home?" Yes, even the mail carrier knew. Gossip travels fast and far on the cohousing grapevine.
- Since it's summer, and the Monday night meal group is a little smaller than usual, we're experimenting with smaller cook teams, which means that everybody pitches in to help clean up (usually this is the responsibility of the cook team). After dinner, people began clearing tables, running the crazy institutional dishwasher, sweeping, and wiping tables. The kids enthusiastically joined in--especially the two- to four-year-old set. They wiped and rewiped tables that had already been cleaned just so they could have some way to contribute. Several of them had to be dragged away from the fun when it was time for bed.
We're delighted to be raising Natalie here. There are moments that make us want to tear our hair out, but it's worth it. In many ways, we have that proverbial village that it takes to raise a child, and for that we are grateful.
We close with a cohousing cooking tip from Cait. When trying to close and lock the front door while balancing a hot pan of brownies, consider setting the brownies down briefly. Especially if the brownie pan is made of glass, which may be strong enough not to break when it slips out of your hands, but is definitely heavy enough to bump the shoerack by the door and knock, say, a sneaker heel-first into the pan. Just hypothetically. And you should probably not serve said sneaker brownies at the community dinner. Instead, give them as a gift to the neighbor who harrassed you for having the baby in the kitchen.