Rob Sandelin, Sharingwood Cohousing
in Snohomish, WA
Here is a typical cohousing story illustrative of the cohousing way of life.
Over the holidays we had several visitors and since the weather was unusually nice (not raining!) the kids were all playing outside. At one point the kids were not visible and one of our visitors asked where my kids were. I shrugged and commented that I didn't know, they were probably at someone’s house. She got this amazed look on her face and said something to the effect: "You just let you kids go into whomever’s house they like?" And I said "Sure, why not? There are no strangers here other than you."
A few minutes later the kids all migrated over to my house and went into the basement and continued whatever game they were doing and again my visitor commented: “Don’t people knock on doors before coming in?" I explained as best I could that there was an unwritten, but well-respected code of conduct, where some houses you just came in, others you knocked and then went in, and others you knocked and waited for a response.
My four-year-old, who had come into the room then added: "And at Stephana’s house when you clean up the toys you get a gummie!" My four-year-old then explained, as only a four-year-old can, which houses had toys, where the cookies were in each house, and what toys she liked best at each of her friends' houses.
My visitor’s amazement at my daughter’s knowledge of the inside of all the neighbors’ homes made me aware what an amazing difference our neighborhood offers. I just take it for granted sometimes.
Zev Paiss, Nyland Cohousing in Lafayette, CO
On Christmas day here at Nyland a progressive dinner was planned among 12 households. Since we are so big a trend is evolving to do activities with smaller subsets to keep things manageable.
A four-course meal was set up where 3 households would make appetizers, 3 make soup or salad, 3 make a main dish and 3 make dessert. On the hour (3, 4, and 5pm) each of the three courses were at different homes with a different set of people. It was great to see people walking around the neighborhood on their way to the different homes. Dessert was held in the common house where all 12 families gathered together to eat an outrageous assortment of goodies (needless to say hunger was no longer a motivating force) and then settle down together and watch "It's a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart."
I can easily imagine this becoming an annual ritual here at Nyland.
Marty Roberts, Two Acre Woods in Sebastopol, CA
For a single woman, cohousing is delightful. I moved from an admittedly peaceful existence in my own quiet home in Santa Rosa to a community full of people and activity. The delight is that there is always someone around to have dinner with, to go to the movies with, or to sit on the patio and sip a margarita with and rave about how the garden is growing. No need to make complicated plans, or even drive!
The community meals a couple times a week are great to come home from work to (even if I'm cooking), but sometimes even nicer, are the spontaneous meals that occur between a few households that all have some food and good company to share.
And the children! It is wonderful to have 9 or 10 young children as part of my extended family - I have known several of them since they were born and will probably know them at their weddings. Planting seeds in the garden with 2.5-year-old Jewell, or dragging my old dolls down from the attic with 7 year old Liora is truly heart-warming and fun! Turning Elsa upside-down and knowing the peals of laughter that will follow, to have the giggling and innocence "in my face" is a great antidote to "being in my 50's!"
Jessie Handforth Kome, Eno Commons in Durham, NC
At Eno Commons, half our households have kids (bringing us to a total of about 16 kids, almost all of whom are seven years old or younger). We have business meetings every weekend, plus some socializing during the week, so the kids are all pretty good buddies with each other and with the grownups.
Our youngest current member, a little girl under a year old, regularly gets passed around our pancake breakfasts and business meetings. One of the people that is best at soothing her (except when she's hungry) is an experienced parent with older kids (and she also happens to teach at a Quaker preschool). So the child gets an extra grownup to bond with a bit and the parents get to enjoy more of the meeting and social time.
The older kids have decided they are in charge of designing the playground and have already gone through a couple of rounds of planning. A little while back they came to us and asked for help facilitating their meetings (we're still working on that - here's one for the list: how do you facilitate a meeting when the participants have 15-minute attention spans?). Then they told us they would be fundraising so they could have more control over what went into the playground. This is from a group of kids whose median age is about 5.
One of our 5-year-olds told her mother that Eno Commons was better. "Better than what?" her mom asked. "Better than anything!" she replied.