I used to love intimate gatherings of close friends.
This is when I was young, of course, in my late teens and my twenties, before I knew that relationships were fleeting and that friendships changed and faded with time, or at least were often placed aside, only to be taken down to be dusted every now and then, like an old keepsake.
I miss that feeling of security I used to get when I was among these friends.
I always assumed that, no matter what, I would always have someone close by I could confide, in. We could take our kids to the beach together, get together and drink wine in the shade, and throw caution to the wind by letting our offspring stay up way past bedtime to catch fireflies in the summer dark.
I see photos of friends and their families together on Facebook all the time, children smiling and sharing bowls of ice cream or breakfast cereal. I see families like this all around me - at the schools, at church, at town events. The parents chat easily, carpool their children, take vacations together.
I can't seem to navigate social situations. I have a few friendly conversations with a parent during karate classes or volunteering for a classroom, and begin to feel at ease. I learn about this persons family, listen as she chats about children and in-laws. Months go by and we begin to be friendly. Then the class ends, summer comes, and we pass each other in the library. Maybe she will smile and wave before turning away. Maybe I can't even get eye contact. Maybe I will make an attempt at conversation and get that awkward feeling this person doesn't remember who I am.
I dislike parties and town events for this reason. It's a gathering of slightly familiar faces, of people I have seen for years in all sorts of social situations. None of them have any recognition in their eyes when we walk past each other. It leaves me feeling awkward and confused.
I would rather go to a party where I know no one, or spend time in a city of complete strangers, than be in my own town surrounded by acquaintances smiling and chatting to each other.