My son is two, but motherhood continues to feel like a new frontier. The stay-at-home mom role is relatively new anyway, and my attempts to interact with other moms would be most accurately described as series of failed experiments in sociology. I’ve tried mom groups (Mops, library play groups, MeetUp groups) but inevitably I find myself in situations feeling like Emma Stone as Skeeter in The Help with Hilly Holbrook at the podium: “Our Christmas Benefit is right on schedule as y’all have already filled all our baked goods raffle slots.” The room of ladies applaud and turn to one another in praise. Hilly continues, “Y’all think we can put a dent in the African Children’s hunger this year?” Standing ovation. Skeeter’s eyes bulge in disbelief of the irony going on here. If you haven’t seen this movie, I promise it is worth your time.
I went to a MeetUp last night. I sat in my car for a few minutes wondering if I should subject myself to this, eventually deciding to go in thinking, “You never know…” So I was a few minutes late to what turned out to be an awfully boring rundown / introduction to the group’s rules and activities for new members (none of the existing members were in attendance, we newbies were being screened prior to being allowed access to the group calendar. In fairness, the real group events might be fun, you never know…). However, during said meeting, who should walk in to Panera Bread by my childhood friend Marie, who I had not seen since 4th grade. Blast from the past! I excused myself from the group rundown to catch her as she was walking out. We shared a gleeful “OMG, it’s been so long!” moment, hugged, and planned to get together ASAP.
I am a firm believer in the bond shared between early grade school buddies. These people are with you, sharing experiences, teachers, drugs at the park (or getting spit on for discouraging this, and shortly after being transferred to private school…) during some of the most formative years of your life. You may fall in and out of touch, you might not cross paths for twenty years, but these people will always get you because you all share the most elemental markings of childhood kinship. How can I describe this better? We may look different, but we will forever all smell like the same dirty sock? We all remember Mr. Beck (gym teacher) and his “evil twin” (not real). We all remember the day recess was called early because some girl fell off the slide (Kristine!), or the parts we played as singing workshop-elves in the Christmas play, or the day Elisabeth took her shirt off in the middle of class.
Yes, she took that shirt off and donned a scarf around her neck, like a model on way too much Benadryl that was on her way to tan topless at the beach. One of the students spoke up meekly (we weren’t supposed to speak during timed math tests), “Uh, teacher? Elisabeth is taking her clothes off…”
Our teacher looked up from the papers on her desk. Her eyes grew wide in slow motion accompanied by a sharp inhale. “E – LIS – A – BETH …” she gasped with each syllable carrying an exponential amount of shock. Elisabeth stood up topples. If she had had sunglasses, I’m sure she would have coolly slid them on. Then she sauntered into the hallway. This was third grade, we all knew you can’t just go into the hall willy nilly! It took our teacher a second or two to shake off her shock-induced paralysis before jumping out of her chair and chasing Elisabeth down.
I also had the misfortune of going over to this girl’s house after school one time, and witnessing she and her sister poop in the closet… there was something odd about this family. I left and never went back. Also, I must add that she only came to our school in third grade and in no way constitutes part of the childhood “always and forever” club – just that we will all remember her. Phew, now that I’ve got that off my chest. OK.
So the other day I was talking to a Tinley woman about my house search, and she said matter-of-factly, “Tinley is a great place to live. Just stay west of Harlem.” I imagined wolverine claws slowly making their way out of my knuckles. “Got something against Old Tinley, huh?” I wanted to growl. Instead, I moved the conversation along. I know my family moved out of Old Tinley to avoid sending us kids to TP High School, but something about this woman’s condescending “Old Tinley Park is ghetto-trash” opinion really irritated me. Which just goes to show, don’t make elitist / hateful comments to people you don’t really know – unless you are writing it in a blog, like me.