I have a cold. School was cancelled yesterday and Thursday. I haven’t left the apartment since Wednesday night. I thought about going out yesterday afternoon, just to get out of the house, but I talked to my friend Amanda on the phone–she had just been out and had seen two accidents in the course of ten miles. I decided to stay in. I didn’t really want to go anywhere anyway.
Now the roads are better, but the cold is worse. My husband Ed and I are supposed to get together with my three best girls from high school and their families tonight. I’ve been looking forward to tonight for a long time but I don’t want to get the kids (or my friends!) sick. Ed is hopeful that if I rest up today, I will feel better for the party.
Usually when we get together and include the husbands and the kids, we meet at Lisa’s house. Anne lives maybe ninety minutes or two hours away; I’ve never even been to her home. Liz lives near me, but neither of us have a big enough place for the whole crew. Lisa is about 45 minutes from Liz and me, and her house has both a finished basement and a new room off the kitchen. The adults usually sit at the kitchen table, which is nicely situated between the steps down to the basement and the new room. The younger kids often play in the new room, and the older ones downstairs. We can keep an eye on the younger and an ear on the older.
Lisa lives less than a mile from the high school we four attended. She’s just a few streets away from where her mother lived when we we were in high school, and in the same development as the house where Liz lived and where Liz’s parents still live. My childhood home is about three miles away in the other direction–my parents sold it a long time ago. Anne’s childhood home is somewhere in-between the house where I grew up and Lisa’s house; one of her older brothers lives there now with his family.
On Monday, it was icy. I had to venture out early for a neurologist appointment. I had taken the first possible appointment to miss the least possible amount of school, and school was cancelled. The office is about 15 minutes from Lisa’s house. While I was waiting for the doctor, I checked the web site for her children’s school district. It was also closed.
I texted her to see if she was up for a pop-in, and she said, “Yes! Come by.”
After the appointment was over, I texted her that I was on my way. She responded, “Cool, careful on my sidewalk/driveway.”
From the doctor’s office, you take a totally different route to get to Lisa’s house than you would if you were coming from where I currently live. Since it was icy, I probably should have stuck to the main roads, but I took the back roads and shortcuts I would have taken as a teenager: past the house with the lions, past what was once a Christmas tree farm and is now a housing development, past the house where my nephews’ grandfather used to live, and up the hill into Lisa’s neighborhood. I passed the turn for Liz’s parents house, drove a few more blocks and then came to a stop sign and turned right.
The street led me past one side of our former high school. It’s a big school, much bigger than the high school where I currently work. There were 757 students in my graduating class, and a quick internet search indicates that the school still still serves a huge student body.
I don’t normally drive past the school on my way to Lisa’s house, and hadn’t seen it, or at least really looked at it, in some time. I know it had a major renovation shortly after I graduated, but it looked the same to me. Same chain link barbed wire fence against the street. Plastic playground for the preschool children studied by the Child Development classes in the same place. Same narrow Vietnam-era windows. The blue rippled steel awning over the windows–maybe that was new. An icicle hanging from the awning reminded me that conditions were still icy, and I made an effort to focus completely on my driving.
I passed the school and came to another stop sign. If you were to turn left, you’d enter the high school parking lot. If you turned right, you would be in the neighborhood. To get to Lisa’s house, where she’s lived for the last 15 years, I needed to go straight about half a mile, and turn right. Without thinking about it, I pulled the turn signal up to go right.
I looked down at it, surprised. Where did I think I was going?
Lisa’s mother’s old house. Lisa’s high school house.
I laughed, turned the signal off and went straight. I thought about the many afternoons we had walked to that house from school, the Cokes we drank, Lisa’s shy younger brother, who seemed like such a kid back then, but would later wind up in my graduate program, and their golden retriever, Julio. Julio was such a good dog. We had another friend, Nick, who liked to take him for walks. They’d walk to the high school, Nick singing, Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.
When I got to Lisa’s house, she was out on the walk. She has sprinkled ice melt on the driveway and walk and was breaking up the ice with a snow shovel. I thought of what my older sister had said after the girls’ trip we took before my wedding two years ago.
“She’s turned into such a mom!” my sister had said. She wasn’t being derisive, it was just a surprise. “When you think of someone you haven’t seen since they were a teenager, you tend to think of them as still a teenager.”
I knew what she meant. All three of my high school buddies have children. Liz has two and Anne and Lisa both have three. They are all wonderful mothers, but when they are away from their kids, Lisa is the one who seems most like a mom.
I watched her bang at the ice for a second before getting out of the car. She was right, the driveway was icy. I looked for a safe place to put my feet.
“Hang on,” she said. “I’ll make you a path.”
“It’s okay,” I said. I held on to the car and slid my feet up the driveway. When I got to the front of the car, I hesitated.
“Just wait,” said Lisa. She was only a few feet away and had already cleared a path through the ice behind her. She broke up the ice between the two of us and pushed it out of the way. I followed her up the path, through the garage and into the house.
Lisa’s older children, 11 and 13, politely said hello, but made themselves scarce. The younger one, the 9-year old, was a little more interested in in talking. We made paper snowflakes, and Lisa cooked me some ravioli when she made lunch for herself and her children.
Mostly we planned the party scheduled for tonight. Lisa is the cookie mom for her daughter’s Girl Scout troop. Tonight’s party is to revolve around Girl Scout cookies. I was surprised to learn that pairing Girl Scout cookies with beer, wine and cocktails is a thing now. I can’t remember who posted a link about it to Facebook, whether it was Liz or Anne, but Lisa, of course, agreed to host.
The plan is to have a tiny taste of each adult beverage with a taste of the paired cookie. We’ll also have tastes of nonalcoholic beverages for the kids. And dinner. We will eat dinner first. We’re not planning to give the children nothing but Shirley Temples and cookies all evening.
Lisa mentioned that Liz had told her that her older son has been talking about the party, and Thin Mint milkshakes, for weeks. The last time Lisa and I saw Liz, it had come up that Liz’s younger boy isn’t allowed to have milkshakes because he throws up pretty much every time he drinks one. To ensure family harmony, the older one doesn’t get them either, unless, for some reason his younger brother isn’t around.
I knew both boys would be at the party.
“Are you at all concerned about the throwing up?” I asked Lisa.
“I’m going to the party store,” said Lisa. “I’m going to buy teeny tiny cups so they just get a teeny tiny taste.”
“Like shot glasses?”
Lisa is a mom. She’s a the cookie mom, and a room mom–she’s very much a mom. But she’s still Lisa.
I lived in North Carolina for a decade. Liz spent at least that much time in Texas. Anne lived for years for in Australia. After she earned her Master’s degree, Lisa returned to our hometown and has been there ever since.
Liz, Anne and I have made our way back to this corner of the world. I think Liz always intended to. I don’t know about Anne. I was eager to leave; I never thought I’d move back. I’d started to think of myself as a North Carolinian. But I wanted a new job, and there was a good one for me here. It’s been seven years that I’ve been back.
When I first moved up here, I was so grateful that Lisa and her family were nearby. I didn’t know anyone else. Facebook reconnected me with an old friend or two, but I’d been close to Lisa the entire time I’d been gone. Shortly after I returned, Anne moved back, not super close, but close enough that we could see her from time to time. Two and a half years ago, Liz moved back, and into a neighborhood just 15 minutes from mine.
There are things I don’t like about living here–the sprawl, the traffic, the rudeness. I miss people and places in North Carolina. I miss the warmer weather. But the career opportunities here have been good for me as well as for my husband. And I treasure my friends. We made our way back to our friendship, back to Lisa’s house.
My cold has improved while I’ve been writing. I think I will go to the party. I’m sure Lisa will have hand sanitizer.