Why I like Cohousing
From: Sharon Villines (sharonsharonvillines.com)
Date: Thu, 19 Jun 2008 06:36:53 -0700 (PDT)
After my post yesterday on the problems (for me) with meals, I was asked why I like cohousing. I thought it was a good question and may start a thread. First another experience with meals.

I tried to start a children's meal where a different parent cooked each night and was served promptly at 5:30. Kids meals -- macaroni and cheese, pancakes, chicken legs and mashed potatoes, and grilled cheese sandwiches with bland cheese, etc. Those parents who couldn't get home to cook could clean up. It never happened because none of the parents would commit to cooking once every other week. But I pass it along because someone else might use the idea. I think 7:00 or 7:15 is just too late for kids to eat and be in bed by 8:30 or 9:00.

Why I like cohousing:

1. Because a single mother of a 3 and 6 year olds knows that if she has an emergency illness or an accident, there are 12 homes where her children would be welcome and taken care of for at least 24 hours -- and that the children would not only be happy but would think it was a real treat.

2. Because when a single man got a call at 2:00 in the after noon asking if he would consider one year old twins instead of one 3 year old and to think about it over the weekend, he could send a notice out at 8:00 that he was having twins in an hour. No one knew about the 2:00 call but 3 people went to basements and closets and set up the nursery.e in 45 minutes with beds, blankets, clothes, diapers, toys, etc. Even a changing table, bottles, and milk.

3. Because when the boys arrived late at 11:00 there were 5 people waiting at the curb when the case worker arrived. The boys turned out to be 18 months old and severely neglected. Everyone played with them while the case worker gave us their background. One twin was not walking and had been reported to social services for failure to thrive. Neither could talk. At midnight I could show the father how to give them a bath and for several nights rocked one boy to sleep because he kept his twin awake and the father needed to do laundry and prepare for the next day. And two young women became substitute mothers and helped him for months.

4. Because six-week old babies could be dropped off for naps in a quiet house to rest their bottoms on my desk and sleep against my shoulder while I worked on a book.

5. Because six-year-olds consider my house theirs and burst in to play with my bookcase of toys. Some things their parents won't allow because they end up all over the house -- a box of miniature rubber and plastic animals, of finger puppets, and alphabet letters. Flash lights they play with under the bed and in the bathroom.

6. Because when people get cancer, meals are organized at the drop of a hat each evening with left overs for lunch. And everyone can be told what not to say to an 8 year old girl about her mother's illness and everyone doesn't.

7. Because from the ages of 8-12 a boy could arrange his own birthday party and invite everyone to come and tell a joke. And everyone from 3-75 does. And that one year he had pun contest with winners in several categories. And some people wrote their own puns.

8. Because at every party, I can ask Naomi to sing the green stamp song and I had forgotten all about green stamps.

9. Because when the daughter of one of our residents, who had only lived here one summer while she studied for the bar, lost a baby a month before it was to be born brought it back to be buried, expecting only her immediate family to attend the service, 45 people showed up. And in the following month woman shared with her their own experiences of losing babies so she could see that she could survive and have other children.

10. Because there is always a party going on somewhere that I can drop into for 15 minutes or an hour. And go back to my quiet house and my writing without feeling isolated.

11. Because when a single man adopted two boys, 6 and 8, from Yugoslavia and needed $10,000 for each one of them, we had a cash party to help.

12. Because we have an 80 year old woman who lives in a unit too small to have a dog can walk the dogs of those in wheelchairs who cannot walk theirs. And when she slips and falls on the ice and dislocates her shoulder there is a person passing by who can take her to the doctor and another who knows where the dog lives and can take him home. And there are others to keep her entertained and see that she has lunch during the following weeks when her son doesn't want her to be alone while he is at work.

13. Because 45 people will sit in a room and listen to a 7 year old play a violin when he has only been taking lessons for a two months and only knows one song and plays it three times and it sounds horrible. And everyone applauds -- three times.

14. Because there is always a puzzle set up in the corner of the commonhouse where people gather, some for only a moment to talk to the puzzler on their way home from work while others linger and talk about important things.

15. And because it's 9:30 and I have to go let the electrician in to give us bids on several jobs because the person who was supposed to do it works as translator for patients and doctors and got a call last night to go to an appointment, probably from her family. And I can slip in a question about installing plug-ins for electric cars that I forgot to tell Jim. And that we have a former resident who came back last week to stay on his way across America to show off his electric car and believes electric cars will be here momentarily, if not sooner.

Here meals are really the least of it.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing,Washington DC

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