I have always been blessed with great friends. Folks I can count on in a pinch, in a bored moment…for laughs and for memories made. When I had Ruby, however, I learned the valuable lesson that all first-time parents learn. Your world becomes very small. Geographically small as well as socially small. Your afternoons are no longer languid and endless. Your evenings are spent at home, desperately trying to keep in touch via phone and email, and chasing sleep, the devilishly elusive friend that you remember so fondly. You pine for the way your world used to be, while enjoying blinding moments of joy and/or complete confusion in your new one.
And, you need new friends.
Preferably these friends will live within the space your body fills as you collapse to the floor from exhaustion. Best would be if you could summon them with tears or burned dinners or poopie diapers instead of having to remember how to dial a phone. When you wander moaning through the streets behind your stroller, it would help if these friends would pop out of the bushes offering lattes, dirty jokes, and a fool-proof recipe for how to achieve clean and luxurious looking hair without a shower.
In Ruby’s 21 months, I have made a thank-God-handful of these friends, and I could literally spit at each one of their houses. Joan is always ready to race to the park — we talk about everything we can in the minutes before the inevitable head injury one of our kids gets on the crowded play equipment. Tracy invites me into her roomy kitchen, lets Ruby dig into her costume jewelry, feeds us all dried fruit and buoys me up with her smile. Lisa amazes me with her twins — one on each hip (after a whole day at work, too!) and always a minute for me.
I am eyeing this other lady though, who is the closest of all…hardly 10 houses down. I could conceivably have a complete meltdown on her front porch without even changing out of my jammies, and the neighbors would be none the wiser.
I had seen her name and address many times on our neighborhood listserv, Moms on The Hill (MoTH). Note: this honorary title, based on where I live, satisfies a long-held yen for a nickname that I have nursed since childhood. I was never Batgirl or Chazz or Snake Eyes, but I’m a MoTH! This gal is sort of a grandame of the list, posting constantly with advice to newbies regarding breastfeeding, sleep problems, and “Things To Do In DC.” She’s funny and seems to have an endless capacity for Mommin.’ I am sure she has the occasional pop-off at her husband (“Why are you looking at me like that?”), or the moments when she shoves Clark bars into her kids’ mouths so they will stop shrieking in the check-out line, but from where I sit she seems pretty together.
We first met at the MoTH picnic, which she probably single-handedly organized. She was bubbly and friendly and we talked for ten or more minutes about our proximity, the closeness of our kids in age, and the need for us to get together. I waited for the phone call or the cheery knock on the door (is that banana bread I smell?) that I knew would come. When it didn’t, I sent a note via email, telling her how much I had enjoyed our chat, and that I really liked her energy.
Days bled into weeks, and each time I thought about it I would pick apart my note…wondering why I didn’t hear back. At first I was sure that her computer was broken, but then I would see more evidence of her comfort with parenthood pop up on the listserv and realize that she just wasn’t writing back to me. I became convinced that she just read it wrong, and somehow thought I was that wacky neighbor that always peers over the fence and asks embarrassing questions during your bar-be-ques. Maybe she misread my liking her energy as liking her vagina. How could my efforts have gone so wrong? Whatever the case, not a peep.
About six weeks ago, I ran into her again at School Information Night — and this time tried to speak to her while she was wrestling her insanely tired toddler into his jacket. Smart. I actually approached the chaos and tried to chat — realizing too late that I had chosen a time that would confirm all of her “she’s a nut” thoughts about me. When I said “We really should get together,” she said “Sure! Maybe when the weather warms up and we can be outside again, we’ll hook up!” I could see her breath against the -10 degree night air, and I contemplated her hopeful statement as Shaun and I also bundled up for the arctic one-block walk to the car.
It’s not as easy as an adult to make friends. When I was in grade school and junior high, it really was as simple as having the same letter begin your last name. If you were standing next to me, or wearing a baseball jersey with the same color sleeves (look out if it also had a Care Bear on it!), or were in the next locker, you were my friend. At least it seemed that easy. Now I am stalking grown women and try to think of witty park remarks in order to get a playdate. It’s brutal!
On our walk home last night, I saw this gal and another MoTH grandame yukking it up at La Lomita. They laughed and sipped their drinks while their children calmly sat coloring pictures of their happy families. I thought better than to wave, which was a good thing because as I wistfully watched them dine I ran the stroller into a raised brick in the sidewalk and almost sent Ruby flying into a neighbor’s yard. I am sure they both looked over and saw me handle it very gracefully. I slinked away to the sound of their glasses clinking and their kids singing “We Love Our Mommies,” a little ditty I am still trying to pick up all the words to.
Needless to say, the weather is really nice now. We could stand next to each other at the park.
While it’s the most profoundly stupid thing I have ever written in an email, it really is her energy that I am drawn to. Though I am sure her vagina is very nice.