The Chesterton Society and Having It Made

There is a club I’ve never attended and it takes place under my own roof while I’m sleeping upstairs. It’s the Chesterton Society, and I think I love it, even though I’ll never be a member.

Through other people’s shrewd behind-the-scenes maneuvering, this fall J became the leader of a Chesterton Society of Catholic men who meet, sometimes in our living room or at our fire pit, sometimes at one member’s downtown restaurant. The club’s goals and identity are still evolving, but it seems to center around Catholicism, the life of the mind, manliness, beer and meat. I like to think G.K. Chesterton, for whom the group is named, and who I discovered, like most people, through a college obsession with C. S. Lewis, would approve.

The group is Catholic men, some still in college, some as old as my father. There are married men and unmarried men, Catholic fathers with children of all ages. There’s a professor, a missionary, a restauranteur, an insurance man, and others who drift through the house with their books, their tobacco pipes. This club is their story, not mine, to tell, and yet — the comment of one of its members, whose wife is a dear friend, really struck me.

He said that the group is special for him because there aren’t a lot of opportunities for Catholic husbands and fathers to hang out and see how other people are doing it. This group provides that for him, one late, late evening a month.

Certainly stay-at-home motherhood is often seen as lonely work, and that’s absolutely true, when your coworker is a four-year-old who chews up his toothbrush during nap time. But on the other hand, I think of all the riches of companionship I’ve found, especially since moving here to Virginia: friends from church, some with children much older, one just starting out on her first pregnancy, some of us cradle Catholics, some converts and reverts. These are people I can text during a kid’s meltdown, who watch my kids when I run to confession, who talk about the nuts and bolts of marriage as our kids slug each other on the playground.

There’s also the Internet, of course. Catholic mom blogs are a thing (though I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say mine is), but I haven’t run across more than a handful of sites speaking to the Catholic man’s domestic experience. So my husband has the comfort of a department of comrades who love his subject as much as he does, and I’m reasonably certain none of them are prone to chewing up toothbrushes (at least during work hours). But he encounters many fewer opportunities throughout his day to think about his vocation as a husband and father in the context of community, and I have to admit that’s a real poverty, even on my most trying days as a stay-at-home parent.

The American Chesterton Society considers itself a contributor to the “revival of common sense, laughter, beauty, faith, and other good things.” So even if it leaves beer bottles on my kitchen counters, that kind of community seems like something worth building.

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Here’s to you, G.K.

On Moving

A partial list of things about which I am capable of feeling guilty:

  • entering a restaurant within 30 minutes of closing time
  • never making pie crust, and never making pie at all if it can be avoided
  • those face wipe things which I secretly love but find inexcusably wasteful
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Big belly, backyard strawberries, late June

So it’s no surprise I feel way guilty about moving. We’ve lucked upon the dearest little slice of suburbia imaginable, and I will miss it terribly.

We have loved this backyard like no other place I’ve ever lived. Part of it is Pippin’s age — it makes getting outside imperative — but so much is the beautiful place we’ve found ourselves. We have the best view in a pretty neighborhood, and situated on the top of a hill, the mosquitos are beat back by the same winds that whistle cruelly through the house in winter.

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After six years of basement living, we have a lovely, light-filled space. We could really expand, and with the arrival of first Scout and then my in-laws’ U-Haul of hand-me-down furniture, we did, joyously.

And our neighbors — well, I’ve gushed about them before. They’ve been dear presences at birthday parties and blizzards, Christmas and the baptism. People stop to talk to us in the neighborhood, and we can walk (if I can bear the hills), to a little park not far away. We told one set of neighbors about the move over a home cooked dinner; we told the others when we went to pick up Bonnie after they’d watched her for us. Both times made me feel queasy.

The truth is, this house isn’t perfect, though, and after some soul-searching, we didn’t consider it, even though it’s technically up for sale. It’s drafty, and carpeted, and most importantly, we just don’t see ourselves living forever as a one-car family this far out of town. So we found a little Craftsman in the city limits we love, and we’re in the process of some very scary financial stuff I only vaguely understand, and every time I look out our bedroom window at That View, I’m heartbroken all over again.