Opal's buddy, Zane, turned two last weekend.
This is quite a milestone because it means Opal will also turn two in a few months, a shocking but inevitable fact.
Zane's dear mama, Krista, and I were in pre-natal yoga together and we've been friends ever since, so the kids have spent time together literally since birth. And I can't help but wonder if it'll stick, if they will be suiting up to go to prom together fifteen some odd years from now while Krista and I deluge them with when-they-were-baby photos. Here you are at the mall that time when Opal hugged you with such gumption it toppled you right over. Here you are in the sandbox burying your toes. Here you are on Santa's lap looking as if sweet old santa—with the button-down cowboy shirt beneath red velour cloak—was pinching you both from underneath.
(He wasn't, we were standing right there.)
Or even better, if fate would have them turn out to be super-close buddies. The guy who Opal can visit after school to play boardgames with while she confides about the woes of growing up, the boys she likes, the things that intrigue her. In this scenario, they'd tease each other in that gentle way that's nothing but love and talk about their dreams while eating Monsterberry Crunch in their pajamas.
Krista had a party at her house for Zane last weekend and it occurred to me, not for the first time, that other parents—a brilliant, dynamic group of people, funny and relaxed and exceedingly easy to talk to—are now our sturdy peer-group. There we were, drinking beer and watching the kids play in the yard (nearly everyone there had children) while discussing life as a parent and life outside of being a parent (but with being-a-parent remaining the main reference point).
I couldn't help but to think about when I was growing up, how the adults at any kind of gathering seemed tremendously dull and featureless as a rule. As a kid, the gap of having two decades between us and them created an opaque partition making any kind of peer-like appreciation an impossibility between the youth and the adults.
But now I wonder how interesting our parents' conversations must have been as they lined the periphery at our holiday gatherings when I was a kiddo, how much effort was put into manning the grill, preparing the drinks and blowing up the balloons of appropriate theme. And how off-color the jokes must have been that were told just out of ear-shot.
I think of my mom, when I was young, and her mornings of having coffee with the other neighborhood moms and their kids. I distinctly remember watching Sesame Street at various houses on our block while sipping OJ from a tiny plastic juice cup—the word of the day is galoshes!—requesting a dozen refills. The moms laughed and gabbed in the kitchen, creating their own imaginary metropolis that was just as convincing as our forts and dollhouses. Monkey bread—with the sugary, cinnamony, buttery middle piece—may or may not have been involved, but my memory recalls something having always been baking in the oven. Nourishing, informal and relaxed.
It's a little different now with so many mamas at work. Krista and a few other mama-friends are so near and dear to my heart that it makes my voice quiver if you catch me on that kind of a day. Some have jobs and some don't. Some work a little and some went back to full time as soon as possible. There may not be a dozen of us gathering daily in the mornings with our strong coffee and OJ and galoshes, as with my mama. But we have our own version of gathering for walks and playdates and trips to the park with our Bakti Chi steaming from the drink-slot in the stroller. And then another birthday rolls around and faces from far and wide gather in one reverberating setting, shaking hands and giving hugs and sitting in groups of five and six in a circle like family around the campfire.
A community like this is so exceptionally important. It can be a lonely world to be a parent without an extended family of folks who are in the same boat—a clan who is adept at the same language—who can arrive unannounced long after the party is over and help themselves to tea or the beer in the fridge. These last few times I've been out sick for a few weeks, keeping a low profile so as not to spread anything or wear my energy too thin, I've felt a taste of that loneliness, particularly while Jesse is at work. It is a need for the kind of aeration that comes from getting out of the house and engaging in a highly nutritive visit, thus restoring my collapsed antennae back to their inherent state of fluffed-up, winged expansion.