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The whole commune thing

Posted by Adrienne. Comments Off on The whole commune thing.

“Not a commune.” Ivor looked embarrassed. “Okay, this is going to sound weird to you but I had this fantasy that Julie and the kids and Andy and I would all move into some kind of village somewhere that we could live in separate houses on the same block and the kids could play in between. One of those places where the whole neighborhood acts as the parents. Somewhere we could both see them every day without having to get a court order.”

“Does anyplace like that still exist?”

“There are still some small towns like that, sure. But I’m more interested in these new cooperative housing arrangements I’ve heard about. You own your own unit but share common space like lawns or gardens or dining halls where the kids can play.”

Chloe had turned in my lap to use my arm for a pillow and my muscles were aching. I shifted her to put the weight on my shoulder. “Is Julia interested?”

“She might be, if she didn’t have to give anything up for it. She knows the kids need a father and it’s a huge strain on her trying to do so much by herself. She doesn’t have any family in the area or anything. But it would mean moving somewhere. And cooperating with me and Andy — at the moment that’s the hardest thing in the world for her.”

“Where did you get this idea?”

“You’re going to laugh.”

“Try me.”

“My dad.”

I almost did laugh, just because Ivor looked so apologetic when he said it. “Is he living someplace like that?”

Ivor shook his head. “Not exactly.” Matt hadn’t told me much about Leif. Our conversations had focused mostly on the safe topic of our work; it’s what Matt prefers to talk about anyway. And he hadn’t seen Leif in a few years. Or maybe he was embarrassed.

But Ivor had kept in closer contact with his father over the years, and had gone a few times to visit him in the odd community where he settled. Selu, he told me, gets its inspiration from a traditional Cherokee village. As much as they can, on a couple hundred acres, they try to live in almost prehistoric simplicity.

The more Ivor described the details, the more it sounded a lot like a commune of the sort I thought had all disappeared in the 1970s, around the time our own parents’ experiment had collapsed. The idea that Leif was living in such a place, after all this time, boggled my mind. And I was even more astonished to hear that Ivor would find it attractive. “You don’t want to live there, do you?”

Ivor shook his head. “Selu is too far out for me. I mean, it’s a nice philosophy and Dad’s very happy there, but I’m too attached to my material possessions. And I have no interest in mixing it up with other couples. The one thing I like about it, that I’m envious of, is the way the kids at Selu are taken care of.

They have all this space to play outside, and other kids to play with, and all the grownups watch out for them. I don’t know how it is in New York, but kids in this neighborhood” he gestured toward the front door “don’t go outside alone. They hardly go out at all unless they’re signed up for some kind of sports team. The rest of the time they’re stationed on their PlayStations. At Selu they’re outside all the time, playing with each other.”

I nodded. “I’d like to see it.” Then I felt an impulse to suck back my words, as if they could somehow get me into trouble.

But Ivor only smiled.

We didn’t talk of Leif anymore that night. Chloe had fallen asleep, and I realized it was past Dante’s bedtime as well. Andy went upstairs to fold out the futon in the office. I followed with Chloe, who curled up on the bed without opening her eyes. Gabriel was adamant that Dante should sleep in the room where he and Megan have bunks, but I knew Chloe would be distraught if she woke up alone, so I tucked Dante in next to his sister.

When I came back downstairs, Ivor was spreading sheets on the couch in the living room for me. A towel and washcloth lay on the coffee table. “You need anything else?” he asked. “Oh, listen, I forgot to ask you something. Tomorrow I’m taking the kids to see my mother.”

“Laura?” I asked, as if he had more than one mother.

“Right. We planned it weeks ago and the kids have been looking forward to it. So I thought, well, she’d like to see you again. And meet your kids. We’d love to have you come along.”

I felt my stomach do an elevator lurch. It was lot like the way I felt when I first ran into Matt in the toy store months before. I found myself searching for some excuse, but coming up with nothing.

“Or…” Ivor read my hesitation, “you guys can just hang out here if you want.”

“No.” Whatever happened, I didn’t want to be alone. “We’d love to come.”

I asked what Laura had been up to, and Ivor filled me in. He was amused to hear how eager my father was to know her news. But I couldn’t stop yawning. “Let the poor girl sleep, Ivor,” Andy finally said.

After they went upstairs, I pulled out the cell phone, realizing I hadn’t checked my messages in more than a day. There were half a dozen, mostly from people at the hospital, and I made a mental note to call first thing the next day and help straighten out the mess my absence was creating.

There was also one from Charlie: “Adrienne, this is going to be my last message to you here, since obviously you’re either not getting them, or can’t be bothered to answer.” His voice took on the stern tone he used sometimes with the kids. “I hope by now you realize what you’re doing is kidnapping. It’s not just immoral, it’s illegal. I’m going to give you forty-eight hours more, because I don’t want this to get any messier than it has to. Give me a call, either at home or at the office. You know how to reach me. If I don’t hear from you by then, I’m going to have to call the police. You’re leaving me no choice.”

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