Dom and I had so much fun this summer meeting fellow bloggers Karen Hall and Barbara Nicolosi that once we’d finalized plans to go to Austin I thought it would be fun to organize a similar meeting with the Central-Texas bloggers I’ve come to know in the past year (or who I’ve known for longer but didn’t realize lived in the area.)
Everyone responded to my invite with enthusiasm and thus this past Saturday we attended a wonderful meet-up with a group of Catholic bloggers and their families: Jen, Hallie, Literacy-chic as well as Mr. and Mrs. Darwin Catholic. The Darwins graciously offered to host the gathering and opened their home to us and laid out a feast. It was a true Tex-Mex flavored spread, (How did they know I couldn’t get enough of the stuff in our short visit?). There were tamales galore (I think I might just have got enough of them this trip) and chili and bean dip too as well as king cake (courtesy of literacy-chic) to celebrate the Epiphany. Oh and no Catholic gathering would be complete without home-brewed beer, an excellent stout brought by Jen’s husband (I took a tiny sip from Dom’s glass and wanted a whole glass).
It was delightful to finally meet these friends face to face! The reality exceeded my expectations. And meeting spouses and children was fun too. You never know a person as well as when you know their family and children bring joy (if not exactly peace) to any occasion.
Isabella was in heaven, there were a dozen other young children, three of them girls within six months of her in age. She’s never been with so many of her peers. Not that she played much with the other kids, but she definitely enjoyed being around them all. Well, except for a couple of incidents where she became very upset when another child began playing with a toy that she had previously abandoned. I know it’s not unusual at her age; but it’s a new problem for us and for our only child who is not used to sharing.
The great thing about meeting up with virtual friends is that it doesn’t really feel like meeting new people. I felt instantly comfortable while surrounded by a group of people I’d never met face to face, very unusual for this shy introvert. Conversation flowed as freely as the food and drink and ranged widely. It’s funny how blogging captures the essence of a person. And so even though at first a person might not seem exactly what you expect, once you get past voice and appearance and start talking, you feel like old friends.
So much for the critics of the internet who are constantly warning us against investing too much time in this form of community instead of “real” relationships. Certainly it is important to know people who live nearby and with whom you can have physical contact; but I maintain that many of the friendships I’ve formed online are as real as any I’ve had face to face. And many of them have a much firmer foundation as they are based on common interests and a shared worldview rather than accidents of proximity or employment. In a way my online friendships are much more like the friendships I had in college than most of the connections I’ve made post-college, connecting on a different level, more of the life of the mind and ideas.
I’ve long since lost touch with all my high school friends and thus when we come to visit my family, I really don’t have any friends nearby to catch up with. Now for the first time in years I feel like there’s an additional draw in my hometown, not only my immediate family, but also a circle of new friends whose company not only I but also my husband and daughter can enjoy. I can’t wait until our next visit. (And add a new item to my list of why I’d like to move back to Texas.)
I also realized yesterday how hermit-like my existence has become in the past half year. A combination of factors including the demands of motherhood, our move, the new pregnancy and Dom’s new job have led to my social life almost constricting to family gatherings with my various in-laws. Not that I’ve sorely felt the lack—being an introvert it’s not really so bad. But I have appreciated the dramatic change of pace in the last week, and am more than a little sad to have left Texas behind.