Tag Archives: friends

For LD…

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My dear friend and her family came over for dinner tonight. They’re the ones, when people say, “Wow! Three kids in a two bedroom apartment? That’s crazy!” I say of whom, “Oh, yeah? Well, some of our closest friends have four kids in a two bedroom apartment. Two bunkbeds, one room, just like that, bam, bam, bam, bam.”

So, there were seven kids seven and under at my “house” tonight. We were four adults helping the children regardless of to whom they belonged. We asked help of each other’s spouses because they were closer. We took shifts at dinner. And, amid the chaos, over the course of two hours, my friend and I managed to hold a disjointed conversation about how healthy it is to have more kids than we can handle.

Why? Because it keeps you humble. And keeping humble keeps you needing, needing God, needing neighbors. It’s great for her because she has to say no to some things that she might otherwise let define her. And it’s great for me because it takes me into community and out of my house where I would be very content to be defined by the pretty stories in my mind. It keeps us dependent on something else to define us, someone else. It keeps us needing Jesus.

It keeps our kids needing Jesus, too. Because, Hey-O!, no way I can address every single concern these kids have throughout the day. My daughter asked me today to bring her the glue from the desk. I was like, “You’re sitting next to the desk.”

It teaches them a little more independence because Mom “just can’t even”. And, I have to let them (pour their own milk!) because I “just can’t even”.

It also keeps you poorer. I mean, let’s call a spade a spade, people. And that keeps us in a healthy state of examination. How badly do I want this pair of socks?

And the judging. You can forget about the judging. Everyone should be overwhelmed to the point that they can no longer judge, very healthy.

All this to say, I think we comforted each other tonight. And for all of you out there who can’t have the overwhelming leagues of children you would like to have for one reason or another, let me just say to you that we, the overwhelmed, are thankful, know we should be thankful, and are trying desperately to be thankful all at the same time.

Love to all the Mommas tonight.

Harriet…

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Let me tell you about my friend Harriet. I met her at the bus stop coming home from Mom’s group last summer. She’s an older woman whom you might call petite if you hadn’t yet had the privelege of talking to her. She wears gigantic sunglasses, boy cut hair dyed ink black, and almost always a leopard print blazer with significant shoulder pads. Any normal person would be dwarfed by the ensemble, but not Harriet.

We began talking over my children, little conversation straters that they are, and kept chatting like this, at the bus stop, five minutes every Wednesday for a few months. She used to want to be an actress. But she became a mother and dreams changed. She became the writer of a TV show for kids and had a wonderful long career. She reminds me every time she sees me that my path might change from what I want, what I expect, but to keep writing, keep at it.

I hadn’t seen her in months. But the other day, there she was, leopard print blazer over mauve velvet pants.

“How are you doing, Harriet?”
“I’m 79.”
“Yeah?” I say.
“Well I’m feeling old. I’m suddenly old. I was middle aged for a long time but now I’m old.”
“How old were you when you began feeling middle aged?” I asked.
“27.”
“27?!”
“Yes.”
“So, what age was your zen age?” I asked, “At what age did you say, ‘ok, I’m here, finally, I am how old I feel.”
“70.”
“70?!”
“Yeah.”
“So, everybody caught up and just stopped caring,” I said.
“Exactly right,” she said, “Everybody finally stopped caring with me.”

So, take Harriet’s word for it, my people. There’s hope.

Perseid Meteor Shower…

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One of my friends arranged a little late night stargazing last night. They picked me up at 9:45 and we drove our way the last twenty blocks between my house and Sutro Heights Park. We stood for a while there leaning on a chain link fence, the only thing plus three feet separating us from the edge of the cliff. The long strip of the Great Highway demarcated by yellowed traffic lights went out from under our feet. The long black strip of Ocean Beach butt up against it flaming here and there with bonfires of a truer yellow. Here and there the waves cut gashes of glowing white against the black beach. And the city laid out to our left looking so much like the lame attempt of humanity to duplicate the stars, it’s beautiful constellations less interesting in the too ordered lines of streets. There were four of us, bundled against the mist, passing flasks back and forth, talking about our summers, our babies, and the impending start of school. We couldn’t see the stars. The marine layer was thick over our heads.

Someone suggested we drive across the bridge in hopes for a better look. The fog above our heads glowed with the city’s light and leant an unnatural dusk to our steps. Here and there we heard animals scurry. There being coyotes in these parts I carried two sticks, because, you know, that would help. And we saw what looked like a goose coming up, its long curved neck looking back at us.

My friend ran at it and quacked. Then we saw it move.

“Oh, no it’s not a duck!”
“It’s a skunk, get back, get back!”
“It’s tail’s up!”
“It’s going away!!”
“They can spray up to forty feet!” (I stated this unhelpful fact and I’m not even sure it’s true.)

Well, we made it back to the car still smelling like ourselves and wound our way to the Golden Gate Bridge. We felt young and old at the same time, running around with our friends at eleven o’clock at night, yet, tucked in the minivan next to car seats of various sizes with toys and tiny rain boots at our feet. As we climbed the bluffs on the other side of the bridge we realized that we weren’t going to get a better view from up here. We parked and walked out into a cloud. It wrapped around us giving the headlights coming around the bend the glow of wildfire.

We walked up the trail into the dark. The great bridge was below our feet, not far but completely lost in the fog. Its lamps alone delineated the bridge. And the cars driving through looked like sliding LED lights on a display board. The fog was so close it was claustrophobic, pressing it’s immense presence against us with a feather’s touch. The city light it captured and reflected back enhanced the effect of its solidity.

And it was good to be with these women, in our bundled jackets, sharing a dark chocolate bar, and trying not to acknowledge our yawns. We four being just mothers doing our best, working so hard to understand these hearts is our care, and trying to determine with laughter and earnestness where to offer ourselves grace and where to try harder. And the fog engulfing us made us feel small but it was tolerable because we were together.

More Friends…

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So, I was at the laundromat doing practically every article of clothing our family of five owns. It needed to be done, yes; however, I was also planning on using it as an unassailable blind to have some mommy time and watch that new movie that came to Netflix that my husband would never ever watch with me in a hundred years. (Dramas maybe, romantic comedies maybe, romantic dramas… never!)

I had the first three loads up on the counter, my iPad was open, and my earbuds were in when I get the unequivocal feeling that I am supposed to be fully present in my environment. I try to reason, then argue down the feeling. But I end up taking my earbuds out and closing the screen.

The instant this is done I hear a young voice and turn to see the four-year-old daughter of my new Muslim friend from the park. And she’s with her father. She recognizes me and we share a few smiles. I’m instantly glad I put off my movie. I haven’t seen my friend in a week or so. I tried to take strawberries over, but the buzzer wasn’t working or she wasn’t in or something.

I have a brief internal debate with myself. What must a man from a culture that requires headdresses think of a woman in shorts being forward enough to introduce herself? But I decide that since he lives here in SF that he would have practiced grace enough in this area to have some for me and my boldness.

So, I go up and introduce myself and chat with his daughter briefly and we shake hands and it’s all well and good and when they leave later he and his daughter call to me and wave goodbye.

And then today, coming back from the laundromat again, me and my enthusiastic Americanism saw a hijabi woman outside my friend’s building and ran across the street to say hi. It is only when I was too close to turn away that I realized it wasn’t her. So, I made another new friend in a different apartment of the same building, directly across from mine.

I am very excited to know these women, these families. And I’m thankful, grumble grumble, for the laundry that takes me down to the street to be present in my neighborhood.  (Is it wrong that I will still buy a washer-dryer as soon as I have space and money for one?)

In Which my French Comes in Handy…

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My New Year’s resolutions tend to be rather random and specific.  A couple of years ago I resolved to replace every plain white pair of underwear in my drawer with a fun pair.  That drawer is now a veritable rainbow.  The year after that I resolved to not wear T-shirts anymore (and I mean the ratty ones) on a daily basis.  They would, henceforth, be relegated exclusively to bedtime wear.  This year I said a simple prayer sometime in early January,

“Lord, by the end of this year I’d like to have a friend who wears a hijab.”

I prayed it a few times over the course of the week.  Motherhood is isolating enough.  Add an urban setting, a language barrier, and such a visible testament to strong religious beliefs and I imagine it must be lonelier still.  I wanted to know these women underneath the scarves with whom I must share so much as a mother in the city.

And wouldn’t you know, today it happened.

I met a mother at the park.  I almost never go to this park anymore. I began asking about her daughter who was playing with my son in the sandbox.

“I’m sorry,” she said, stumbling through her English, “You don’t by any chance speak French?”

“Mais, oui!” I said.

And so began a long conversation with nervous laughter, patience, and a lot of hand movements as we moved between French and English, talked about our husbands, and about Ramadan starting next week and how hard it is to feed the kids and not eat yourself.

Halfway through this conversation in the middle of June I remembered my New Year’s prayer.  Of course, this begs the question, which came first, the prayer or the plan to bring this woman into my life?  Which prepared the way for which?

It turns out she lives directly across the street from me.  We chatted until dinnertime.  She kissed my cheeks and welcomed me into her home.  I welcomed her into mine and asked if she liked tea.  We will see each other again.

I’m so glad for random prayers, new friends, and three kids who were going so crazy this afternoon I had to get off my butt and take them to the park.  God even finds joy in using my crazy kids. What do you know?