"Well, I gotta go proofread and print out my paper before class," your friend would suddenly announce, getting up before you'd have a chance to stop her.
With your friend gone, you would look around at the group left at the table, realizing that while each of you knew Friend very well, none of you knew each other at all.
The Linchpin Friend had just scarpered, leaving awkward conversational attempts and wishes for a socially smooth method of starting to read in front of everyone in her wake.
Like the rug that really tied the room together, you can never underestimate the power of the linchpin. Its loss can lead to an epic journey to Malibu with a suitcase of dirty undies, or in the case of LO, a cranky cranky day.
We have identified the linchpin for LO. It is his first nap of the day. If I can get him to drift sweetly off to sleep somewhere between 8:00 and 9:00 in the morning, each subsequent nap is easier for my sleep-averse little boy to stomach. If I somehow miss the magic sleeping window for the linchpin nap, I know I'm in for a long, hard, frustrating day. And unfortunately, it's not an option for me to say to LO, "F--- it, man. Let's go bowling." (I mean first of all, they don't carry bowling shoes in LO's size. And when you only weigh as much as a bowling ball yourself, it's rather difficult to bring your A game.)
Today, LO managed to hold onto his linchpin morning nap. I hope that means that he'll be all set for the rest of the day's naps, but I'm not holding my breath. The problem is that the linchpin is holding together a crumbly substance--like Halvah or old parchment. Yes, that first nap can help tie the rest of them together, but they're all fragile beasts. I'm currently listening to him babble through the first few moments of his late morning nap, and he could go either way. Happy babbling could lead to sweet yawns and sleep. Or it could become infantile outrage at the world and a demand for the management to fix whatever is wrong. (Sadly, there is no letting him know that the management's fix would be best served by sleep.)
I suppose I should have known better. Even back at Kenyon, the linchpin did not always hold the center. On occasion, the linchpin friend was really the linchpin acquaintance--and after a quick conversation about class or grilled cheese, the table would become a silent group of people who didn't really know each other that well and did not have a heck of a lot to say to each other. The structure of socializing would crumble, and there would be no savoring of lunch. You would bolt down your food like a madwoman and head to the library. (Or at least, that was what I would do. I suspect some more socially adept individuals would try to make friends, but that's crazy talk.)
Sadly, the linchpin crumble seems to be happening today. LO is hollering for the management, and I unfortunately hear a revolutionary note to his complaint. If I don't watch out, he may unionize with other babies, and then I'll never hear the end of it:
"What do we want? We're really not sure! When do we want it? NOW! Waaaaaaaaaaah!"