The end of an era

September 22, 2010 | Background, Conversion | 18 comments

Mrs. Darwin and I with Gianna Jessen (center)

Our friends the “Darwins” (of Darwin Catholic) are moving to Columbus, Ohio. I’ve tried to get them to stay: I threatened to chain myself to their front door in protest; I started rumors about the roving gangs of banana-suit-wearing thugs that plague Columbus; but, alas, they insist on leaving.

As I get the house ready to have them over one last time tonight, it occurs to me that their departure is a particularly momentous occasion for me. When they walk out the door after one final get-together this evening, it will mark the end of an era.

My husband and I met the Darwins back in 2006. We first found their blog the year before, when we were considering converting to Catholicism and researching issues like Catholic teaching on contraception and overpopulation. We both enjoyed their lucid analysis of everything from current events to theology, and “Did you read that post on Darwin Catholic today?” became a common phrase at dinner table discussions.

I was shocked, then, when they mentioned on their blog that they were in the Austin area; I was more shocked when it turned out they lived only 10 miles away.

The first night we went to their house for dinner, I’d never seen anything like it: we walked into their richly-colored living room, the walls lined with book shelves, an icon on the wall above the couch, and some funky classic that sounded like Ella Fitzgerald playing through the computer speakers — and there were kids everywhere! On the way home, my husband and I kept remarking that their house was so “full of life” in every way.

In my old worldview, “fun” and “kids” were two entirely separate concepts. Babies and young children were something that you tolerated for a while, and you got out of that phase as quickly as possible so that you could get back to living your life. What I saw at the Darwin’s house was a shattering new vision, where babies and young kids are just part of the married vocation, part of life.

It wasn’t just that we clicked with them or simply enjoyed their company, but that they were ambassadors to a whole new way of living; one where faith, reason and a love of learning go hand-in-hand, where good times involve the sounds of children running around in the background.

I’d go over to Mrs. Darwin’s house for a playdate, and we’d sit with that day’s Wall Street Journal spread out over the kitchen table, discussing the articles while the kids ran up and down the stairs in herds. The Darwins would come over to our house and we’d chat until well past midnight over glasses of cabernet sauvignon or some of Darwin’s or my husband’s home-brewed beer, our children running wild through the house until they finally dozed off in makeshift sleeping bags all over the living room floor. Throughout our friendship there have been four new babies, some more expected than others; new pregnancy announcements and infant carriers next to a table spread with good food and good wine are woven into the fabric of my memory of our times with them.

One of my most prescient memories of being at their house was a moment when I was perusing their book shelves, packed with volumes about everything from philosophy to Church history to astrophysics, and I noticed a rosary on the shelf in front of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. My dad and I used to read Cosmos together when I was growing up, and it was always a favorite. It represented for me a zeal for knowledge and wonder at the grandeur of the universe. When I saw it there next to the rosary in this vibrant house — the windows open, wind and music wafting through the air, the sounds of children’s laughter intermingling with the smell of chicken fajitas from the stove — it was the first moment I internalized the fact that Christianity had only added to all the good things I’d already had in my life. A Christian life, lived to its fullest, involves all the intellectual curiosity and wonder at the universe that I’d had as an atheist; the only thing that changed was that I now knew the One from whom it all comes.

The end of one era begins another, and I look forward to hearing about the Darwins’ next adventure — and hopefully visiting them in Columbus one of these days. As sad as I am to see them go, I’m happy that we met them at all. It always struck me as kind of a fluke that they ended up in this area in the first place: they didn’t have any family ties here and didn’t even have a job lined up when they first arrived. They played such a big role in helping my husband and I transition from our old way of life to this new one, sometimes we joke that God sent them through Austin just for us.

A trip down memory lane: some posts that reference the Darwins:

18 Comments

  1. Emily (a.k.a. Smoochagator)

    Good luck to the Darwins on their new adventure! I’m glad your families found each other.

  2. Michelle

    How cool to have met them! I believe God has a way of putting people in our lives. I have friends that I just know that God’s hand pushed them my way and thank Him everyday for doing so!

  3. MelanieB

    Of course I don’t know the Darwins nearly as well as you do; but I had the same thrill when I realized that they (and you too, Jen!) lived in the Austin area. Their hospitality was amazing whenever we were in town to visit my family. For years I’ve dreamed about moving to Austin. I’d love to return to my hometown, to be closer to my family and having such awesome friends in the area just sweetened the dream even more. Sometimes I wonder why God has arranged it that I have so few like-minded friends here where I live and an abundance of hem back home, where we can only visit. Still, I also feel very blessed for having had the chance to meet the Darwins and their beautiful family. My life is richer for the time I’ve spent enjoying the warmth of their friendship.

  4. Kaitlin @ More Like Mary

    I have NO doubt that God sent them there just for you!

  5. Dawn Farias

    I’m speechless and bewildered at such fabulous memories. And am so glad you have them. Blessings to the Darwins on their new adventure.

  6. Christine

    I hope my family can inspire others and be “full of life”…what a blessing.

  7. BettyDuffy

    I loved this post. And I’m looking forward to having the Darwins live just a bit closer to me!

  8. Tina

    maybe they were living here because YOU were the truck driver this time? 😀

  9. Fr Christian Mathis

    Sorry that your friends are moving away. That is always a sad thing. I love your description of them being full of life. I think that is always the case with true holiness.

  10. Keri

    Oh how I need friends such as these! Do you know any in the Los Angeles area? haha

  11. Margaret in Minnesota

    I had a lump in my throat by the end of this post, and not just because I am–in general–an oversensitve sap. A lump in my throat, Jen–and not a figurative one–because this is an absolutely beautiful tribute.

    It’s a tribute to friendship, certainly.

    It is also a tribute to the beauty and Truth of Christianity–specifically, in my case, of *Catholic* Christianity and the peace that I’ve found there since my conversion.

    [reversion, technically]

    [but just as powerful]

  12. That Married Couple

    What a great friendship! That’s something that I think so many of us long for.

  13. Lisa @ Cheerfully Chaotic

    Ooh la la, Jen! You look positively sassy in that photo! 🙂 I love the bookshelf story. And now, in order to assuage your pain of losing the Darwins, you’ll have to mosey down our way– Matt makes a mean margarita.

  14. Nancy

    I’m sorry to hear this news! It’s so incredible when you find those kind of life-changing friends. On a hopeful note — I just found out yesterday that some dear friends of ours who moved away 5 years ago are moving back!

  15. Lynette

    I love reading your posts, but this time, it was the picture that caught my eye. I met Gianna Jessen briefly waaay back in 1995. I had gone to a “pro-life” thing (please don’t ask me what it was, I’ve slept since then…) at the Tivoli Theater in Chattanooga, TN. She was the featured artist and gave her testimony which, of course, brought me and the entire auditorium to tears. Your picture brought back so many memories (that’s also the time when I met my husband)… I still have the CD of hers that I bought back then around here somewhere, I think I’ll go dig it out…

  16. Kristy

    I loved reading this. The way you described your friend’s home reminds me exactly of my NFP teacher’s house. As a new convert, I went to a Cursillo weekend where I had a hit-em-between-the-eyeballs priest explain God’s plan for fertility and being prayerfully open to life. After throwing out the birth control pills in the trash, I found myself at this woman’s house 24 hrs. later in a panic. She was awesome. The house was full of Catholic materials, kids were everywhere, and the joy & peace I saw in her eyes drew me like a moth to a flame.

    You are blessed to have this friendship, and now God’s sending them somewhere else where they can continue to serve Him. The torch has been passed on to you. 🙂

  17. valerie gibson

    Jen-

    I am an evangelical Protestant, daughter of a United Methodist minister, mother of 4 adult children – and and my husband and I have 3 grand babies! What I really want to say, though, besides the fact that your posts are so compelling and wonderfully creative (wow! rational art!) that I read you all the time since having first discovered you within the last year….what I really want to say is that I live in Wooster, OH (45 minutes from Cleveland airport) – less than 2 hours from Columbus – and if you ever visit your friends the Darwins and have ANY extra moments, I would for sure make the trip to Columbus to share a cup of coffee or whatever with you. And actually, now that all our children are grown and out of the house, we have several extra beds and rooms for a family to stay! I extend a cordial invitation to you and yours to spend a nite here if your travels would benefit from such a stay. Thanks so much for your vulnerability, your authenticity and for sharing your very sharp mind! You’re a gem.

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      What a kind offer, Valerie! I would be delighted to get together if we’re ever in that area. Thanks so much for your kind offer!

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