They've been coming to our house over the last three years. Jon taught them as freshmen (well, some of them anyway) and now these Xavier students make the pilgrimage up the 75 every couple of months during the school year. The group evolves depending on friendships, who's dating, whether they can find someone with a car.
Last night three of the old regulars showed up with two newbies. The house is so quiet right before they arrive. Then as one big blast of energy from the cold outdoors, they tumble into our entryway, flinging off thick coats, hugging me, Jon, each of our kids, all talking at once, smiling, laughing.
We move into the kitchen and right away, the regulars notice the new table! and the rearrangement of furniture! and the X-Box Rock Band game! The newbies dive into the snacks waiting for them.
As happens, various conversations break out like sparks flying from a bonfire. Mark and I stray into the family room to flip through Maurice, by E. M. Forster. We're fans; Mark wants to share the moving passage where Maurice "comes out" because he knows I'll like it, too. We digress to politics, Mark justifying his support for Hillary while I talk about Obama. I'm always impressed with the political awareness of this group of students. They read, they care, they make good judgments.
Meanwhile at the table, despite the snacks, hunger breaks out.
I make lots of food when the kids come. Last night: lasagna, salad and garlic bread; followed by key lime and apple pies. We joke with Scarlet who can eat the boys under the table yet is skinny as a rail! Mark is a vegetarian so I make him a separate mini-lasagna, only to discover that Jordan had "gone veggie" in the last week, too. They split it.
Jordan helps me serve in the kitchen while we discuss theology: it's his major. He tells me that his goal is to reform our understanding of Christianity. I tell him I hope he does!
After dinner, we move into the living room for the real objective of the night: Catch Phrase. Jon starts his college classes on the first day with Catch Phrase to loosen up the students, to give everyone a chance to play, to talk, to risk, to get to know each other. Catch Phrase at our house, however, is for one purpose only: to get even!
It's a blood sport in our living room.
We sit alternating to ensure the proper teams as these have become inflexible over the years. We add and substitute the newbies for those who can't come or have moved away. But the core players remain the same which means that Mark, Jon and I are on one team while Jordan, Scarlet and (usually) Jacob are on the other. Jacob was gone last night so he was replaced by the very competent roommate of Scarlet. To round out the teams, Liam played with us and a new student, Iman, played on Team Two.
Still, I'm usually somehow on the losing team. Which means Jon is on the losing team. Which means Mark is on the losing team. And. That. Is. Unacceptable!
We adjust our chairs, we make sure we can jump up and high five without knocking over candles or picture frames. We are ready.
The electronic device whirls around the circle:
It's a dance. A dance like in the 70's... A movie called blank "Nights"
Yes. Then there's a word that's not a word that goes with it.
Boogie Disco, Boogieman, Boogie-woogie?
Fling... and the device flies at Mark as it buzzes, while Mark throws up his hands as if to say "I don't have it. It's not in my hands."
Immediately all hell breaks loose:
I threw it to him, but he wouldn't catch it.
It was buzzing before it got anywhere near me.
Shouts, re-enactments, outrage... Over the bedlam, the voice of reason (and impartiality) in an eleven year old body shushes both teams: "It's a 'do-over'."
And we all know, instinctively: we can't challenge Caitrin.
So the night goes - words flying, laughter, dubious hand-offs resulting in more play-by-play reviews than at the Super Bowl.
Yet at night's end, when all is said and tossed, the best team wins two out of three. Yeah, you know how we do.
In a fervor of rehashing the plays, everyone decamps to the kitchen for pie. In solidarity with the events of the night, my crazy whipped cream dispenser loses control and sprays the entire room (hair, t-shirts, table, floor and dog's tongue) to the delicious laughter of everyone.
Then as the night winds down, Jon and his current students discuss how to make his class better. He asks their opinions, listens, makes adjustments, hears their critiques. It's remarkable, really, to see students so comfortable expressing their thoughts to their professor, the man who holds the keys to their grades. Perhaps just as amazing is that he welcomes their viewpoints.
Finally, it's nearly midnight and time for them to go home. With less energy now, they stuff their arms back into bulky coat sleeves, shuffling to the door. Even the newbies get good-bye hugs. We all promise to do it again soon.