Tolkien, artist

6/100 Circles in Circles


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I spent Saturday afternoon and evening attending the memorial service and open house for my friend Richard.  Richard, his wife Cindy and their daughter Jenibeth have been friends of mine since 1979/80.  In other words, for a very long time.  Because of the nature of these kinds of events, many people attend who either haven't seen each other in quite a long time, or who never would have met under normal circumstances.  I had an opportunity to sit along the side and watch the interactions, I felt they were fascinating and share them here.  


There are three major occasions in a person's life when people who were never or rarely with each other will be pulled together by outside circumstances.  These three are celebrations of birth (christenings, new child parties, etc), memorials of death (funerals, visitations, masses and other religious services, etc) and weddings (a celebration of new lives shared with a partner).  Of these three, only the wedding celebrations have the people who are the focal points alive, healthy, and able to fully participate in the event.  So...getting married?  Party hearty because it is a rare celebration.  

Times like this, with a group of people who really don't know each other leads to walking down memories to find common ground.  "I don't know if you remember me.  I was over at your house.  I think the last time was for your graduation (an event that had happened ten years before)."  Many conversations were started, interrupted, and often never taken up again, thus leading to the conclusion that people were making conversation for the sake of establishing their own roles in the group, not to really impart knowledge or feelings.  

At a memorial the widowed spouse had the opportunity to act as the ruler - all will come to him or her.  In Cindy's case, because she is wheelchair bound, everyone stood in line to spend some time with her.  An odd receiving line.  The room had a fairly constant stream of people coming in and going out.  Old friends and co-workers bumped into each other, established where they knew each other from, and then separated again.  If there had been several different companies with long employment, as was Richard's case, then each company's people formed their own circle.  These circles moved, intersected at times, then separated again, rather like large schools of dissimilar fish which swim through each other's schools.  

Dress was all over the board.  Those who had known Richard professionally almost all wore proper business attire in subdued colors.  But there were people in denim and others in t-shirts and leather.  Two story-boards were erected with photos of Richard in many times of his life.  Everyone went to look at these at some point, sometimes with another person, often alone.  A few secondary family members were scattered along the walls having driven up from another state to attend the memorial.

 Everyone was invited to the open house to follow, but those who actually attended this were close friends of the family and family members.  I had made it my task to make Cindy and Jeni laugh on this day.  I did so several times, so I think my job was done.  It will be a hard few months for both of them while they get things settled with the attorney, sell their house, and move back south to be with family in Indiana.  I'll be keeping closer touch with them during this time because it will be exhausting and emotionally trying.  

So the next time that you are invited to one of these three celebrations in the life of a person, watch carefully.  You will see the circles form, merge, and then separate again.  You will see who is in a position of power that day by who waits to speak with them. And you will help them just by attending, so make an effort to be there.  Your presence is always appreciated.  
I have observed the circles as well - it seems to me that the circles get progressively smaller until the people are in little groups, within groups, which they tend not to stray from.
Exactly right! And who is in your circle often determines your personal social status within the group.

All too often I am on the outside looking in and that, after a flush of initial discomfort, it allows me to observe in the manner of my education and see these structures forming and changing. It's rather like looking at a lava lamp - LOL.

- Erulisse (one L)