Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Shabbat #8

Guests: Nikki, Ben and their children P. (3) and F. (5). P. is Sarah's best friend and partner in crime ... a pretty important role when you are 2.

Menu: Blue Cheese Crackers, Herb Roasted Turkey Breast, Parmesan Encrusted Mashed Potato Casserole, Sauteed Green Beans with Garlic, Cherry Angel Food Cake, Roasted Marshmellows

What I Learned:

Up until recently I was "that" mom at Sarah's preschool. The one who rarely dropped off and picked up late. Abandoned craft projects and fundraising notes piled high in her cubby. I missed co-op twice ... though I'm honestly not sure I am fit for two hours with a room full of two year olds on my best day. The morning I actually remembered to bring the snack my Trader Joe's Alphabet Grahams were rejected as contraband. Tree nuts ... the ultimate offense. May as well have been crack.

But I was not disinterested. I was disconnected.

Based on my less than stellar showing, preschool seemed an unlikely place to find a dinner date. Until a year of shabbats.

Sarah has good taste. P. is as terrific as her parents. A night I expected to spend talking about our kids (not that this is a bad thing), was spent talking about food, wine, the virtues of The Incredible Pizza Company versus Roberto's and all the other topics that you would expect to cover with a couple you have known for years. The fact that Ben (my Ben that is) was completely smitten with F. was icing on the cake.

Cleaning up the dishes after dinner (and way after the kids bedtime - proof that it was a good night) Nikki gave me one of those pauses. The kind that is typically followed by "how are things" -- my least favorite question. If I say fine -- I'm lying. If I respond, the questions just keep coming. So I usually lie. But that's not what happened.

Nikki told me that she and Ben had seen the story. Ben remembered Steve from college. Nikki and Ben discussed. He seems like a decent enough guy. And he does does drop off at preschool.

And the plan was born. Nikki would casually mention to Steve that Ben had gone to Denison with him. Code for "we knew you then and we think you still might be okay." (Or as Nikki more tactfully put it, "we're sorry about what happened and we're here").

I remember the day Steve came home and reported that Ben had gone to Denison. The two were a few years apart and the acquintance had been distant. That was pretty much the extent of the conversation. I paused just long enough to file the bit of information in the giant abyss of things I should know or might need to know.

Four months later as I was searching for dinner guests I remembered the conversation. Sure our girls were friends, but the fact that our husbands had gone to college together sealed the deal. Even if the preschoolers ended up acting ...well ... like preschoolers, at least our husbands would have something in common.

And that's how my re-connection started.

I began talking at preschool pick up. First to Nikki so she would not think I was crazy for asking a virtual stranger to dinner. Then to the other moms. And the teachers. Instead of sitting in the car, I was sitting cross legged on the preschool floor singing the bumble bee song (which by the way now has far less violent lyrics than back in my day). I arrived (on time) for my co-op with a non-offending snack, plus my very own craft project. "That" mom was gone and this mom was back.

When I was little we lived in a ranch house with a hardwood hall connecting the bedrooms. The perfect stage for setting up dominoes. Judy and I would gather all of our tiny black blocks and carefully line them up. Our designs curved and meandered down the long (or what seemed long then) hallway. Once assembled one of us would hit the first block sending each block tumbling into the next. But sometimes we miscalculated. The dominoes wouldn't connect. One of us had to jump up and tap the next one for the show to continue. In the end we would admire the twisting trail that our dominoes left and celebrate, even if we had to give a few of the blocks a little tap. It didn't matter as long as they all fell down.

I have spent years carefully setting up the tiny black blocks that make up my childrens' experience. Reading to them from birth, introducing the new foods at just the right time, checking off milestones, volunteering in classrooms, providing them opportunities to safely explore their world. But I missed a connection.

Thankfully Nikki tapped the next domino. And the show continues.

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