the simple minded suburbanite


Snow Day
January 12, 2010, 3:02 am
Filed under: parenting, suburban, suburbanite, suburbs, voluntary simplicity | Tags:

The South, much like the rest of the country, is suffering a cold snap.  Here, we actually got snow and, though only a small accumulation, it caused major upheavle in a city unaccustomed to the stuff.  School was called off.

Only seconds off the heals of this announcement via television ticker, there was an email from my friend Dee that there would be a playgroup at her house at 1pm of the snow day to fend off the winter blues.  I had mixed feelings about going over for many reasons, none of them having anything to do with how much I love my friend Dee.  I kinda wanted my kids to frolic in the flakes in my own yard so I could play with them and not be stuck at Dee’s kitchen table making small talk with that loud-mouth, Gertrude.  I wanted their few memories of snow to be at our own, pretty, little, yellow house.  The other reason was, I knew Dee’s house would be MOBBED!

I’ll take you back to when we first moved to this neighborhood.  I was overwhelmed.  I was depressed.  I was lonely.  I was determined to make a life with many happy memories for my kids.  We chose this neighborhood because, in a way, it reminded me of my mid-western landscape and there were plenty of primary-colored plastic toys in the driveways.  The neighborhood we moved from, the hood where I brought home all three of my baby boys, was wierd, isolated, unfriendly.  So, imagine my delight when I was bombarded with families bearing pan-loads of brownies to my front door.  Imagine my joy when the boys and I were invited to the pool, to Chuck E. Cheese, to play groups abound.  There were five or six kids who were each of my boys’ ages and I really liked each one of the mothers. 

Playgroups were on Tuesdays after school.  We agreed to rotate houses.  Whoever hosted, would clean up.  Everyone brought a snack, either kid or mommy, and the mommies took to having a glass of wine.  All was lovely.  The kids swarmed through the houses and yards like wierd African mosquitos, buzzing, feasting, colliding.

It lasted that way for a year or so.  Then it started to change, slowly.  We all still had plenty of fun, the moms and the kids. But it started to be just Dee and I who would host, our eighteen month olds sitting at their kiddy table popping gold fish.  The older boys dumped toys out of bins. And, yes, all the mommies and all of their children still came, in droves.  Yes, maybe this arrangement was better with just Dee and I hosting.  We wouldn’t have to worry about them staining Jill’s sofa or choking on something at Sharon’s or Laura’s cranky husband.  Then the wine started to flow more freely and for longer periods of time until, “playgroup” started bleeding into my dinnner prep time, into the time my husband got home, into dinner time altogher.  The kids got wilder with less supervision, getting into cabinets previously off limits.   And playgroup went from Tues afternoons to Tues and Friday afternoons.  All between Dee and I. 

I was starting to feel run over.  My house was always a disaster.  My husband started riding me over the money I was spending at the store furnishing food and wine for the entire neighborhood.  My youngest was toddling and he was harder to keep in sight.  And the other boys, I didn’t feel like I saw much of them at all.  But mostly, after a year and a half of this fun, I realized that, with the exception of Dee, I had not had a truthful, insightful, deep, or meaningful conversation with any of these “friends”.

Slowly, I phased out.  Reclaimed my home.  Reclaimed my time with my kids.  Remained in the folds by stopping in enough and hosting enough to do so.  But Dee…

She moved to Texas.

She was struggling.  Three little children, one of whom she adopted from China.  A husband who, though loving and supportive when home, was not most of the time, spending extrodinary amounts of time building his business that took him mostly out of state.

She was struggling so much but would not tell anyone.  Would not ask for help, in fact refused help when offered.

I remember the first time I forced my “help’ on her.  I showed up at her front door at 11:30 in the afternoon with 4 Happy Meals waiting in the van and said, “I’m taking your 2 kids that are home to my house for lunch and playtime to repay you for the times you’ve watched mine for me.  Get their shoes or don’t get their shoes, but you’re getting some time off.”  She quarled, of course, but let me take them and I knew she was grateful.

So, she moved to Texas with her kids, her 2 yappy dogs, her hubby, and a pet turtle to be closer to extended familyand to get a little…help. 

It didn’t work out.  They came back.  And we were all so happy to have them back.  So, so special.  But things had changed a bit while she was gone.  She was the glue, I guess you could call it.  We all remained friends but with me deciding that some solitude and order was important in my life and with others not really all that readily entertaining, we had all remained friends but had forged smaller group friendships.  I myself have found two of the most precious friends I have ever had in my life.  Deep relationships.  Dependable ones.  I got my marriage back on track and my kids thrived in our little world of inter-locking back yards.

And Dee came back and some things are just about right back to where they were.

Kids are dumped at her house 24/7.  And I mean this.  From the crack of dawn.  From the moment the school bus lets out.  Even when all of her kids are off to school.  Her house is a constant swarm.

Just about back to where they were.

I see a crack in Dee.  A fatigue.  I watch her husband when he comes home from a trip as he surveys the trashed house, the looted wine fridge.  “Na, don’t bother cleaning up,” he’ll say with sarcasm.  “Is everyone staying for dinner?” or “Gee, why are so many of my wine dollars going to cases of cheap Chardonay when we only drink red?”

Dee and I are close friends.  We have real conversations.  Our families get along so well.  I’ll tell her what I think, even if I know she won’t agree and once, she even told me that something I said “upset” her.  WOW!  Go Dee!

“I’m working on it, I really am, ” she said to me one day when I had invited her kids over so she and her hubby could get some alone time.  When I pointed out that she never gets time to herself.  That she is constantly helping others out.  That she can’t sleep more that 3-4 hours a night. She couldn’t send her kids over because there were six other kids already at her house.  “Send your kids over here,” she said instead.

“No.  I’m not going to do that.  But what you’re going to do is write down on your calendar that next Friday at 3pm, you’re sending your kids over here and you’re going to relax or get things done, or screw on top of the turtle habitat. Whatever.”

But Friday was a snow day.

And the play date was at Dee’s.

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