Saturday, February 28, 2009


I spent two days last week at a professional training, becoming officially certified to lead a special, intensive song-and-story based program for infants and parents. Yesterday, the trainer talked about how this program was originally designed for parents who were at risk, who'd been referred by Child Protective Services, but that eventually it was decided that all new parents needed and could benefit from this kind of support.

At the lunch break, I was talking with a few other librarians, all childless and younger than me.

"When I have a baby and I'm on mat leave, I'm going to go to all the baby storytimes all over town!" one of them said.

"Yeah! Yeah! Me too! That'll be so great!" the others echoed.

"Yeah, I thought we'd go out and do lots of stuff too," I said. "But what happens is, first the baby needs a diaper change. Then you need to gather up all your stuff to go out, and that takes a while. Then she's hungry and you need to feed her. Then she falls asleep. Then you need to eat something and maybe go to the bathroom. Then she wakes up and her diaper needs changing again. And by then she's hungry again, and then it's dinner time, and then...time for bed!"

They stared at me as if I'd just recited a dirty poem in fluent ancient Greek. Because I am psychic, or maybe because I used to not have a child, I know what these extremely nice, smart, energetic young women were thinking: they were thinking that I was insane, or at the very least that as a baby-parent I had been criminally disorganized. They would not be like that, slaves to routine, housebound and scattered! They would sling those babies on their hips and get out into the world!

Well. Maybe they will. Truth is, eight years later, I can't exactly remember why I didn't, just that I, too, had thought I would be out and about all the time with the baby, but that when it came down to it, it all seemed incredibly, weepingly, Sysiphianically hard.

And I wasn't even (mostly) the at-home parent, except for the first three weeks and then Tuesday afternoons for a few months after that. (And Jewish holidays.) It was at least as hard for the Renaissance Woman, though if I remember right, she did a spectacular job of getting the two of them out of the house on a regular basis.

This training brought it all back for me, though in a hazy, faraway kind of way, like the memory of a fire alarm in the middle of the night. Which was what a lot of it was like, come to think of it: staggering around sleepily, aware that something urgently important was happening, but unable to wake up enough to grasp its exact significance.

I have to remind myself of this when MG is having one of her full-on earthshattering meltdowns (as has happened twice this evening): it's easier now. And God knows, I was one of those nodding fervently and knowingly at that training last week, when the trainer said that in her opinion all new parents are in need of extra support, and that in this culture having a baby increases a family's isolation profoundly, and that just getting to a library program can be incredibly difficult.

Yep. Yep. Yep. I may not remember it well, but I remember it, all right.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Katie wrote back!

I was right-- it was her.

Now I'm totally stumped for what to write back in return. She asked how I am, so there's the whole Vancouver thing. Plus the previous 35 years.

Also: As of mid-April, I will be off Saturdays! So I can take a protesting MG to shul and kids club a few times a month! Hmm. Maybe not such a good deal after all.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Lost and Found

For one year of preschool and my first few months of kindergarten, I went to a small private school on the Upper West Side. It wasn't one of the fancy famous ones--in fact, it doesn't even exist any more--but it was fancy enough that I remember a formal lesson in how to hold a fork.

My best friend there--my very first real best friend, period--was a girl I'll call Katie. We met during naptime: we were supposed to be sleeping, but we each looked sideways and discovered each other, and were racked by fits of giggles. The teacher scolded us, but I didn't care: for the first time, I'd found something at school that I cared about more than I cared about Being Good.

The Mermaid Girl used to love to hear stories about me and Katie: how I went over to Katie's house and bounced on her bed and we listened to the "Cinderella" soundtrack and screeched "bippety bobbety boo!" over and over; how we were supposed to hold hands and walk across the street to the park for our daily playtime, but Katie ran, and I ran with her, and we both had to spend playtime sitting on the picnic bench, and Katie said loudly that she didn't care, she didn't want to play anyway, and I marveled at that because I did care and desperately hated being in trouble; how once I went over to Katie's house, all excited to spend the afternoon with her, and her mother came over and gently explained that Katie wouldn't be able to play after all, because her father had come to see her, and how I was so confused about that, because I'd thought I knew her father, the man who lived with her and her mother and her little brother in their exciting long-staircased brownstone, but he was her stepfather, as it turned out.

I didn't tell MG about how once there was another girl I was friendly with, until Katie said that she guessed if I wanted to be friends with that girl then I didn't want to be friends with her. So I started avoiding the other girl, and everything was okay after that. Even at the time, I knew there was something wrong with that kind of threat, but I shrugged it aside because Katie was so magical, so exciting, so special; it seemed worth everything, to go on getting to be her friend; even better, her *best* friend.

In the middle of my kindergarten year, my family moved to the suburbs. My parents and Katie's parents weren't friends, particularly, and long distance phone calls (even from New York to New Jersey) were expensive, and Katie and I were only just barely literate and certainly couldn't send letters independently, and so after a short while we lost touch. She did come to visit, once--maybe for my sixth birthday party--and I remember being excited but also feeling like it was strange somehow, off somehow, for my old preschool city friend to be appearing here, on my suburban street. And I remember talking on the phone with her once, in first or second grade, but it was strange and we didn't know what to say to each other.

After that, I never saw or heard from Katie again.

I've wondered about her, off and on, ever since then. In college, I thought about her a lot, maybe because I was spending a lot of time in exalted, obsessive love/crushed-out-ness, and my friendship with Katie was the first time I remember feeling something like that, or its preschool version, for someone my age. College would have been a good time to look for her--most people of my age and class were living and studying in a few dozen well-defined institutions, and even if she hadn't been at one of them she certainly would have had a close friend or relative who was--but somehow, I didn't. I think I was a little scared; Katie had always been a force of nature, and I was such a nerd--and, then, a newly-out lesbian to boot--that I was afraid she'd snub me, her old best friend, as not worthy of her time and reunion. I'd have rather not found her than that.

About ten or fifteen years ago, when the Internet made it easier, I started looking again, but without much hope: the name I knew her by isn't uncommon, and she'd had a different last name from her mother and might have changed it to match her mother rather than her mostly-absent father, and then we were getting to the age when people of our age and class were getting married, and many women do still take their husbands' names. Over the years, I found people with her name several times, but none of them seemed to be her, and after a while I gave it up as one of life's mysteries.

Last night, in one search that took all of ten seconds, I found her on Facebook.

At least I'm, say, 95% sure it's her. There were half a dozen women with the same name, and I sent messages to all of them, just in case. Most of them have written back by now and said sorry, it's not me, but good luck finding your friend.

The one who hasn't written back? I think that one is her.

She did indeed change her last name when she got married, but included her maiden name as part of her middle name on her Facebook profile. Her sampling of friends, which includes a few celebrities, was impressive enough to send me Google-stalking around to find out more.

Here is most of what I found out, which is general enough so that anyone who doesn't know her name won't be able to identify her: she's married to a lawyer a few years older than us, and they have two children and live on the Upper East Side. She donates to and volunteers for various worthy and vaguely-progressive causes. She has a law degree herself, but seems to have retired to stay home and take care of the kids. She goes to charity fundraisers.

Those facts are the bare outline of a certain kind of life, a life I know about from friends of friends, from books and movies, one that's very different from mine; though, except for the geography, it's not so very different from the lives of my students' parents, at my old workplace. I can guess some things about her, just from that outline: that she went to private school through high school, and then to a good college; that somewhere in there she travelled, probably in Europe; that she met her husband in law school or at work; that her kids go to private school, too; that they have household help; that their building has an elevator and a shiny lobby; that they have a summer home in driving distance of the city.

In other ways, I know nothing at all. I don't know anything about her that I know about my old high school and college friends, or even my invisible blogging friends. I don't know where she went to college, what she majored in, whether she passionately wanted to be a lawyer or just kind of fell into it. I don't know whether she ever lived outside New York. I don't know what her favorite books are (though I know that one of her favorite TV series is one that I like, too). I don't know if she kept on holding her friends so tightly, whether she had a lot of friends, whether she was wild in high school. I don't know if it was hard for her to give up work, and if she plans to go back to it when the kids are older. I don't know if she gets along with her mom, or her dad, or her stepfather. I don't know what happened to her little brother, who we used to tease. I don't know what about her kids worries her, if their births were hard, what she's proud of in them. I don't know anything about her grownup self, really.

But I knew her right away, when I saw her Facebook picture, even though I haven't seen her for thirty-five years. She has the same dark hair, the same piercing, forthright eyes. She still looks like a force of nature.

From that, and from the causes she supports and the things she's listed as doing, I know she's the same girl who ran across the street to the playground, and then said she didn't care. The same one who did care, passionately, enough to get people--me--to do what she wanted; the same one who looked over at naptime, giggling and transgressive. She doesn't live a transgressive life now, for sure. The outline of her life is different from when we were four, but the core is the same.

I have a feeling she's not going to write back; it could be that she doesn't even remember us being friends. But it almost doesn't matter: I think I'm finally old enough to not care if she thinks I'm a dork, to not measure us against each other, to not worry, after all these decades, if she thinks I'm worth being friends with. I'm just happy to know what happened to her.

And we're only about halfway through our lives; if she wants to get in touch, she knows how to find me.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Some Perspective

It is Multiple Deadline Time again at That Job, and so I am sitting here freaking out. Every once in a while I slink over to my email and send something job-related, which relieves my anxiety just enough that I can return to surfing the website and reading the press briefings.

Yes, it's come to that. I can't tell if that's because I'm that desperate to procrastinate or the workings of the Obama Administration are that fascinating, or both.

It does, however, make me exceedingly grateful that of all the career paths I could have chosen, I did not pick the one(s) that might have led to me becoming the White House Press Secretary. Just the job I would least like in the world: to stand up every afternoon at 2:00 and have a mob of people yell and harangue me for information that I either don't know or am not supposed to give out.

Yup. It makes That Job seem not so bad.