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:
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