Sunday afternoon, we held our last group meeting of the Americorps service year. We will, of course, be getting together at our graduation dinner on the evening of the 31st at the Governor’s Western Residence. But other than that, last night was the last time we’ll all be together.
We met at “the cabin,” which is a summer cabin property that Tammy caretakes for the owners. It’s a very rustic log structure with several large sleeping areas filled with beds, screened in sitting room, a modern kitchen, a spring-fed pool (the same spring water feeds the plumbing inside), a croquet/badminton court and lots and lots of trees. Cathedral-like cypress trees essentially make up the entire woods around the cabin, allowing only a few other species to punctuate their grandeur, and give the air a gorgeous smell.
The main focus of the meeting was a cookout, complete with enough inch-plus thick rib-eye steaks to make me inquire as to whether she’d gotten a good deal on a cow, and to remark upon the eerie silence that must dominate the plains now that all that mooing has ceased. There were, in all fairness, several veggie options including grilled marinated tofu (pretty good) and Sunshine patties (sunflower burgers), plus a huge salad complete with wild greens, peppers, walnuts, dried cranberries, feta and who knows what else, baked potatoes with fixings, and all the other trimmings of a real gut-whomper of an open-air feast, right down to the build-it-yourself strawberry shortcake dessert. I barely made it out alive.
The “meeting” portion of the event itself was short and sweet, basically just a few bits of lingering paperwork to be signed off on, attendance sheets from the mediation training to be signed, new addresses to be collected from those who are moving and other oddments of the paper empire that is Americorps bookkeeping.
While dinner was grilling, a rather cut-throat game of badminton was brutally enacted on the croquet court, morphing later into a couple fast rounds of “nuke ’em” and volleyball, all played around one of our members small children who basically ignored everyone else and did his thing under and around the feet of the players.
In short, a good time was had by all. The paperwork got done. Weeks of activities and events were caught up on by those not involved in them. And large, sloppy dog kisses were handed out all around by Jasmine, Tammy’s big black (and exceedingly well-behaved) Lab.
For me, this always a bittersweet time. You get so used to being around your Americorps team members over the year that it seems inconceivable that within weeks you’ll all be splitting off and, with a few exceptions of those doing a second year, never seeing each other again.
It was harder to go through my first time, in part because I didn’t really see the emotional hit coming, but mainly because all of us in the Habitat for Humanity build team literally spent 6 days a week together (or only temporarily split up into a few teams) for the whole year, and spent many team-building and training weeks throughout the year hanging out together with all the other HFH Americorps members from across the states of NC and SC. So it was a serious jolt going into our exit retreat (we spent a weekend at the beach doing end-of-year paperwork and whatnot), looking around and realizing that here were a whole camp full of people whom I knew pretty well (folks from the other chapters) and my own team (whom I knew like family, for good or ill) that I’d spent the whole year bonding with and who I was never going to see again. It was heart-wrenching, unexpectedly so. I had assumed I’d be sad, but I had had a hard winter and was dealing with some physical and personal problems and was well ready to get my service year done and over with. But the depth of my reaction was well beyond my expectation – I was essentially losing upwards of 100 friends at once, and that’s a hell of a hit to take.
This year it’s a looming emotional hit, too. I really am going to miss my team members. But it’s also tempered somewhat by the fact that we didn’t work altogether as a team on the same site all the time, and by the fact that I know it’s coming this time around and have been mentally and emotionally preparing for it. Nonetheless, I expect to be doing a decent impression of the dwarfs Mopey and Weepy for good few weeks after we graduate. You can’t just up and walk away from year-long friendships with a hearty wave and a “Cheerio!” over your shoulder. And just because you see the bus coming doesn’t mean the impact will be any easier.
The reality is that in life, many things may come to pass…but they rarely come to stay.