For the Game Loft with Love and Squalor (#11)

“To Esme with Love and Squalor” by J.D. Salinger is one of my favorite short stories. It begins with, “Just recently, by air mail, I received an invitation to a wedding…. It happens to be a wedding I’d give a lot to be able to get to….”

Just recently I received an invitation to a wedding that I will give a lot to get to. The wedding is the first of a group of friends who met at All About Games and continued to be friends when the Game Loft opened. That group includes: Andrew Knight, King and Steven Bishop, Carlos LaHoz, Bill Yori, Paul Belden and James Sweetland. The wedding is for Andrew Knight and will be a kind of reunion for the earliest Game Loft members.

In the Salinger story a World War II airman meets a 13 year old school girl in England whose friendship allows him to get through the war with his, as she says, “F-A-C-U-L-T-I-E-S intact.” Salinger points out that it is through friendship we get through the rigors of life.

When we met this group of young men Ray and I were “recovering parents.” Having only the one child meant that we didn’t know what we were doing and we made a lot of mistakes. After our son left for college Ray vowed that he would never talk to anyone under the age of 30 again. I felt from the experience of parenthood that I was a failure as a mother and as a woman. It was a pretty grim time for us. Like the airman in the story we were shattered. We had no intention of running an afterschool program but sometimes you get what you least expect.

When we founded the Loft all of the men I listed above were in the 7th grade, they are now in their 30’s. At a recent meeting with several members of that group I asked them how the friendships they had made at the Game Loft had shaped them. James Sweetland told me that those friendships came at a crucial part in his development when his identity was forming. The friends he made then, both peers and adults, helped shape him. His friendships affirmed his values and gave him a reasonably safe environment that helped him become a resilient adult. He also established an identity as a gamer at that time which helped him find a constructive hobby to shape his time.

It has been my privilege to know and to game with all of these men through the years. Andrew is a behavioral health professional; King is head chef at Street and Company in Portland; Steven works for Harvard and studies at Harvard University; Bill returned to college this fall to finish his engineering degree; Paul farms, Carlos is a manager at an IT firm in Boston; and James lives in the Philippines with his girlfriend and two sons. They are fine men who are contributing to the life of their communities and generously remember the Loft.

That Game Loft friendship helped us as much as it helped the boys. Through their love and acceptance we were healed. Their friendship, now almost twenty years old, has put us back together as people and reassured us that we have something to give to young people.

You may be pleased to know that Ray and I have emerged with our “F-A-C-U-L-T-I-E-S intact.”

If your F-A-C-U-L-T-I-E-S are intact please consider a gift to The Game Loft.

Patricia Estabrook

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