Quiet Fridays: Back-to-School Jitters

Photo: The main corridor of my high school back in Maryland. It was brand spanking new when we showed up back in 1999. And it was a hell of a place.

It is another Friday morning. Congratulations! You made it!

The sun has been particularly bold here in Massachusetts. I’m so grateful for my central air. It has been too hot to do much of anything–I’ve had to cancel all of the fun stuff that I wanted to do but maintain all of the appointments and things that I had to do. It ended up being a very busy week with none of the fun things to break it up. I’m not going to complain too much about the heat, though, because winters are so long here in Massachusetts that even weeks like this one should be worshiped like they are golden gifts personally handed down by God. The chill of new seasons will creep into the air as early as the end of August around here. It will be pleasant and welcome at first, but then the very ominous realization will grab at the heart: Winter is Coming.

Today is a recovery Friday. My apartment is a disaster. Sheets need to be washed and bathrooms need to be scrubbed. We also didn’t eat particularly well this week…and by “we” I mean me and The Husband. The husband forgot his lunch every day this week, so he ate fast food/cafeteria food all week. I didn’t eat breakfast a few times this week and fell into the fast food trap as well. I was cooking dinner yesterday and felt accomplished and yet gross and when I thought about why, I realized I’d been eating really fake food all week. I’m drinking my weight in water today to get back into a groove.

The heat wasn’t the only thing to get to us this week–the husband has a very important meeting this morning and it has had us all off schedule all week. He has been going in early and coming in late, and even the boys have felt the suck of energy. He’s also been a bit of a zombie when he gets home. He munches on dinner, he sorta plays with the kids, he’s eager for the bath/bed routine and then suddenly the house is quiet and he’s staring at a computer game to numb it all.

But after this morning, he’s free from the stress. So I’m congratulating him with a steak dinner: New York strip, shoe string fries (and yeah, I cut and fry my own), and fresh broccoli (which isn’t terribly traditional for a steak dinner, but like I said, we ate poorly this week so I want something that packs a nutritious punch). We rarely eat a steak dinner anymore as the price of good beef has been astronomical for the past year. New York strip is my least favorite cut (I’ll take a bone-in ribeye anyday) but it is available and I know how to make it tender and enhance the flavor. When you’re good, you’re good.

The only other problem with our lost week is that we packed not a single box for this move. While I’ve been sitting around scheming how to get into this house I fell in love with, I forgot about our little hop house. We’ve gotta move. We’ve gotta move in 2 weeks! August 3rd is coming!

And as I focused on the weekend packing task list, I stopped at a cold realization: We’re moving to a new place. We’re starting all over again.

As I wrote in my Liebster profile, friendship isn’t really my strong suit. I have very few good friends. When I was younger, my father used to tell me that in adulthood I should be able to count my friends on one hand. Maybe 2 if I’m exceptionally lucky. And by “friends,” he meant “a person who can call you, say ‘I need you right now’ and you’d stop your whole world, jump in a car, and get to them. and they would do the same for you.”

It’s the second part of that rule that I think is the most interesting, because it widdles down the consideration pool to really nothing for me. I have acquaintances, I have correspondents, I have women who I gossip with…but do I have friends? There are certainly people within those lists who are important enough to me that I would drop my life for a minute if they needed me. They are, pretty much, all in Maryland. I’ve made friends here in Boston, 5 in particular, who I hold very dear, who see my children regularly, who I drink and gossip with, who make me feel at home here…but would they reciprocate that “I need you” call? Maybe 2 of them, though…

and what makes me nervous is that they all live in Boston. I’m moving to a very nice, but very outside suburb of Boston. No longer will I be able to send an e-mail or text, hop on the Orange Line and fall into a Boston bar with a friend. The days of easy access to the city are about to be over. Now cars or commuter rail must be involved: Expensive in the one hand, inconvenient on the other, or relegated to taking up part of someone’s precious Saturday. No more sneaking out to Chinatown on a Wednesday night.

So what does that leave me? It leaves me the suburbs. It leaves me these moms who I am about to spend a lot of time with because my son is about to start his own friendship journey. While he is so incredibly excited to start school and make new friends, his new friends mean that I have to make my own new friends. It means that my home needs to be open more often. It means that I’ll be doing a lot of listening and caring.

There is a vulnerability to this that I don’t like at all. I haven’t been this nervous since starting high school. So much time wasted thinking about the ins and outs of a micro-society. I get the impression that the suburban mom club will be much the same. The pretty ones, the rich ones, the nerdy ones, the hippie ones. I’ll be the odd man out no matter what because I’ll be the colored one. Two groups are already forbidden from me because I ain’t rich and I ain’t pretty. There is also the problem of me being an introvert: Yeah, I can smile and be friendly and even come off as totally outgoing, but I am really in my own head (and I have multiple Myers Briggs tests to prove it).

I was challenged by a friend to become active in the community that I move to. When he first issued the challenge, the idea thrilled me. I have a lot to offer, why not earn my chops via bake sales and other community events. A certain former Alaska governor got her start that way. Maybe a non-traditional route is best for me.

But now I remember that I’m a huge  introvert, and people scare me, and opening up my heart and home to a new community is frightening. I guess I’m just afraid that I’m going to end up doing a lot of listening and advice giving, but when the time comes to talk about my own problems, friendly mouths will quickly become unfriendly ears. Even my own mother does this–every week she vents about this and that at work. I talk about a frustration with the boys or other anxieties and its “well, you need to make better choices” or “you just have to do what you have to do.” The supportive ear is essential. I used to have that and I miss it.

Now, there may be some of you who are thinking to yourself, “what about The Husband. Shouldn’t your spouse be your best friend?”

My husband isn’t my best friend. My husband is my husband, a relationship that is sacred and goes beyond the boundaries and rules of friendship. It isn’t about sex, it’s about intimacy. He’s a man who has seen a baby come out of my birth canal. He’s a man who has watched my body evolve from young and (relatively) solid to one that has carried two babies to term. He’ll watch my skin wrinkle and my hair gray. He knows my bathroom habits and idiosyncrasies that no one else in the universe will ever know. That is why “spouse” gets an elevated position. This isn’t to say that I don’t laugh with my husband. We were friends before we were anything else and there are many, many interests and passions that we share. I’m just saying that my husband isn’t always interested in the topics that I’m interested in. I’m not gossiping with that man, and I’m not really talking to him about nitty gritty politics, either. I can’t talk to him about Scandal or The Newsroom, just as I can’t really swap recipes with him. The burdens of joint governance of the household and raising the boys and planning for our future complicate and enrich the relationship in a way that elevates it above “best friend” status.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this…only to say that the stillness of the dawn has brought to the forefront childish fears and has shed light on new and unexpected challenges. I have to be brave, not for myself but for my son. These relationships that I build with the families of my new home will be influential on my son’s now budding childhood experience. Starting in September, he’ll no longer be my baby. He’ll be a school-aged child, with the needs that come with that. One of the biggest ones is friends, real friends, good friends, with playdates and eventually sleep overs and social stuff. Stuff that will require coordination and relationships with parents. And that means I need to get my game face ready.

For you moms out there with school-aged kids, I’d love to know your stories. Is it true that you make some of your best friends through school? Do you find school momness to be cliquey or is it better than I fear?

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