816 Opinion

August 19, 2014

Susan Vollenweider: Joys of flying solo in a group of people

“I’m not ready to go home,” my son pleaded. “I just found my friends. Can’t we stay a little longer, please?”

“I’m not ready to go home,” my son pleaded. “I just found my friends. Can’t we stay a little longer, please?”

We didn’t need to be anyplace. It was still early, and Noah had been well-behaved. It should have been an easy “yes.” Only problem: I had drained the town-hosted community event of all my desired experiences.

I had cheered as the high school marching band came into the town square and WOOTed after each piece they played, even added extra applause for the school fight song.

I took the required photos of my daughter and her friends decked out in the band uniform du soir: School Colors Creative.

I had clapped and oooh’d as the main attraction took the stage: a group of teenage rockers playing covers spanning my lifetime.

I had walked around the town square and visited with people I knew. The loud music preventing any real conversation from occurring, but the contact saying, “I’ve missed you. Really great to see you again.”

I spent time with my in-laws who had the good sense to bring folding chairs.

I had obtained and consumed the required ice cream. I bought a hot dog and soda for Noah.

I had done it all and could only think of the book waiting on my nightstand back home.

It was a divide-and-conquer Friday night: Brian had headed with Luke to a football scrimmage while Noah and I audibly supported Bekah and the marching band a few blocks away in the center of our small town.

In a summer of surprisingly delightful weather, that evening’s was an exceptionally pleasant gift. Warm, but not hot, with a soft breeze. I wasn’t sweating or chilled, and even the biting bugs had stayed away. Noah had been a good sport hanging out with me, so he could use some kid time.

“OK, but just a few minutes … and stay where I can see you,” I shouted after him as he took off toward a batch of boys.

I was left to wonder how to spend a beautiful night in a charming town when none of my own friends were in sight.

I reached for the awkward-situation lifeline: my cellphone.

When things feel weird and I find myself alone, I start scrolling through emails, Facebook, Twitter ...

... but my phone was messed up. No matter what I tapped or what settings I changed, I couldn’t get it to connect to anything. I was alone in a group of people with no social lifeline.

Fifteen years ago, this situation would have made me uncomfortable. I would have stuck like glue to my kids or anyone I knew, to not have to be alone.

But it’s not 15 years ago and I can happily fly solo.

I watched and really listened to the band. A cicada sang along from high up an oak tree; little kids danced in the space below the stage. I wondered if the members of the band imagined a packed arena, a fan frenzy where little girls in sparkling skirts were twirling that night.

I watched teens I’ve known for years flirt with teens I had never seen. I had a front-row view as my own daughter stepped from her typically silent shell to talk to boys who smiled when she did.

I watched Noah race his posse. I watched Noah get chased by two separate girls. He ran backwards, forwards and eventually to his mother.

“I think it’s time to go,” he said to me.

“Just one more minute.”

Related content



Editor's Choice Videos