Home: A Collection

 

Red House First Snow 110613
© 2015 Marta C Drew

 

If what my dad says is true, I descend from a band of traveling, singing figure skaters. I imagine them –dark-eyed and wild-haired– wandering with their skates and bright scarves through dark Bohemian forests into the gracious little towns where they stopped to make their living. According to my dad they were fed and welcomed. Maybe once, as she carved loops and circles on the frozen lake, one of my ancestors locked eyes with a local carpenter and thought about him every day for the rest of her life. Maybe another dreamed of staying in one of those towns for months or years. Still, my ancestors didn’t make their home in the towns, they made it by traveling together. Home was on the road and on the ice and in their voices. Home was their togetherness.

 

From second grade through high school, I moved back and forth every Monday between my mom’s place and my dad’s. I took the bus to GramBea and Grandpa Thacher’s house after school once a week, I spent four or five days in Lonsdale with Grandma and Grandpa Skluzacek a few times each year, I spent a month every summer at Camp Lake Hubert. When I think of home, I don’t think of a single place. Home is something I have collected.

 

Mama's Cranberry Bread 112614
© 2015 Marta C Drew

 

My mom and step-dad believed in orphan Thanksgivings. They invited all of their friends who didn’t have family in town and made a different kind of turkey and stuffing every year. I could smell onions, carrots, and celery sautéing in butter as I came downstairs Thanksgiving morning. Before the turkey went into the oven, Mom and I made cranberry quick bread –lemon and pumpkin too, if we had the time.

 

As the sun went down around 4:30, Steve built a fire, Mom and I set the tables, and friends started arriving. They brought wild rice casseroles, garlic mashed potatoes, cranberries with orange zest, sweet potatoes with pecans and brown sugar, apple tarts and pumpkin pies. We brought out the turkey and stuffing, the breads we had made and bottles of wine, and stayed at the table for hours. Sometimes we got lucky and it began to snow out on the marsh while we ate. As everyone left, full and connected, the woodsmoke curled up to the starry sky.

 

My time with Dad was more private, even secluded. The December after our second attempt at family had failed, my dad and I found ourselves alone again in the house on Malibu Drive. I was sixteen. My stepmother and her two daughters had left without a word one weekend when I was with my mom. I was fine with it. I remember bubble lights on the tree, the sharp, blank smell of snow. Each night, when my dad had had enough time alone in his shop and I was done with homework, we sat together in the family room. He lounged in his black Eames chair, looking out at the deck he had built with his own hands a few years before. I lay on my stomach on the floor, drawing or dreaming or writing (bad) poetry.  We didn’t talk … we didn’t need to. As Walt Whitman said: “we were together. I forget the rest.”

 

When I think of home, I don’t think of a single place. Home is something I have collected.

 

When Mom had orchestra or Guthrie Theater tickets and Dad had to chaperone a high school hockey game, I took the bus after school with my cousin Jessica to  GramBea and Grandpa Thacher’s house on Cooper Avenue. Jess and I slept downstairs in twin beds with turned wooden posts and yellow quilts. Before we lay down, we rose high on our knees in bed, facing the pillow and pulling the covers around our shoulders like capes. Grandma and Grandpa were frugal and let the house get chilly at night from October through April. Clutching the wad of blankets at our chests, we fell down onto our pillows, turning just our cheeks to face each other in the dark.

 

Once GramBea had kissed us good night, we played games in stage whispers. Our favorite involved taking turns creating elaborate configurations with our hands and trying to copy the other’s exactly. Lying in the darkness, only a narrow stripe of golden light  at the door to our room, we twisted and laced our fingers in intricate forms.

 

“Can you do this?”

 

Jessica made an attempt, seeing neither her own hands nor mine in the other bed. “Like this?”

 

“No, like this.” We could never do it right and we never would– it didn’t matter. What mattered was hearing another voice in the dark.

 

I need a solid place, a single place, to feed and welcome those who pass through and decide to stay.

 

Grandma and Grandpa Skluzacek’s house was about an hour south of my house, so when I visited them I stayed for several days at a time. My memories of that house are all taste and scent.  Grandma Betty fed me Malt-o-Meal or scrambled eggs in her basement kitchen while she did laundry and made filling for kolachkes. When I was finished eating, she tied an apron two or three times around my waist. Then she cut dozens of squares of dough with her knife — she was done before I could finish washing my hands–and pulled a kitchen chair up against the counter for me to stand on. We worked well together: she dropped a spoonful of poppy seed or prune filling on each piece of dough and I pinched the corners together to enclose it. When she served the rolls that night for supper, she told Grandpa I had made them all by myself.

 

Grandpa liked to drive us the four blocks to the Lonsdale corner store in his red Ford-F150, which  smelled of tackle box, tobacco, and sharp-sweet sawdust. He would buy me a tall bottle of Bubble-Up and pretend he wasn’t showing me off to his friends, who all knew he was. They sat at the counter together in a sturdy row of pinstriped overalls and workshirts,  rating tools and machinery, shaking their solemn heads over someone they knew who had fallen from a ladder. I perched on a stool at the end of the counter next to Grandpa in my cords and monogrammed sweater, forcing myself to finish all of the Bubble-Up. I knew what it meant to be included in this.

 

Until I had children, Camp Lake Hubert was the closest I came to having home all in one place. I spent eight summers there as a camper, experimenting with my character and learning to find my people. When I returned as a counselor after four summers away, I got dropped off one night in the upper parking lot without a flashlight. I walked all the way to Wrens cabin in that straightforward, thorough darkness I will always associate with the Minnesota Northwoods. I have a sense memory of that night, of knowing the trees and steps and buildings so well, understanding myself so clearly in relation to them, that I never even considered the possibility of being lost. I believed I would find my way so I found my way, on that night and others, both at camp and away.

 

Outdoor Winter Pots
© 2015 Marta C Drew

 

 

Maybe I descend from a band of traveling, singing figure skaters who wandered from town to town, maybe it’s just a story. It doesn’t matter …I have never wanted to be one of the travelers. I want to be part of the town. I am not content to wander the way my ancestors did centuries ago. I am not a free spirit; I have always been in search of a place to land.  In all of my traveling back and forth between parents, grandparents, camp and beyond, I never stayed anywhere long enough to feel completely at home.

 

Home is togetherness, yes. Home is my collection of people, recipes, and remembrances. But I have learned I can’t carry that on my back –I need architecture around it. I need a solid place, a single place, to feed and welcome those who pass through and decide to stay. Home for me is a Thanksgiving table, a quiet room, a bedroom, a kitchen. Home is another voice in the dark.

 

 

Time Devoted

 

Rice pudding 101915

 

When I was a little girl, I spent at least one night a week at my grandparents’ house. They lived in my school district, so I could ride the bus right to their house and run across the wide, grassy lawn to the open door. Inside, GramBea was in the kitchen, already filling a baggie with raisins and apple slices for my snack. I played outside while she worked on dinner and practiced her piano on the 4-season porch.

 

When I came back in around dinnertime, I sat at the pretty drop-leaf table in the kitchen and watched GramBea stir a knob of butter into a pot of brown rice, then peer into the oven to see if the chicken was done.  Now and then, she stood still and listened to whatever news Tom Brokaw was delivering from the tiny television next to the stove, nodding a little or snorting in disgust. Dinner, when it was served, asked nothing of me. Everything GramBea fed me was familiar, nourishing, and somehow more than the sum of its parts.

 

If I was lucky and the weather had been cool enough to keep the oven on all day, dessert was rice pudding –served cold in a white tulip bowl. Rice pudding is still my ultimate comfort food. It has only six ingredients: milk, rice, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, and a pinch of salt. The technique, too, is simple — mix everything together in a deep casserole dish and stick it in the oven for roughly three hours, stirring every once in a while until you think it’s done. It couldn’t be easier, but it’s like any ritual: you have to give it careful, sacred attention to do it justice. You can’t merely spend three hours making rice pudding … you have to devote three hours to making rice pudding. That distinction took me a long time to understand, but I get it now. I am the only grandchild who really loved it, so when GramBea made rice pudding — stirring every 30 minutes for the first couple of hours, then after another 20, then maybe 15, then two 10-minute intervals at the end– she was giving me more than just her time. There was something else in there, too. Devotion.

 

I want to give my life some careful, sacred attention and do it justice.

 

A couple of months ago, I bought a little daybook and began keeping a daily log of my activities. One of the reasons for this new habit was to shame myself into being more productive. Once I had been forced to write “8:00-noon: Facebook and whatever” a few times, I picked up my knitting needles again and put myself on a strict cooking and baking schedule.

 

The other reason, the more important reason I began keeping a record of what I do each day, was to make sure my days are at least partially made up of meaningful work and activities that reflect who I really am (or at least who I’m trying to be). I want to give my life some careful, sacred attention and do it justice.

 

Annie Dillard says, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

 

That isn’t great news for those of us who spend our days in minivans with bickering children. Anyway, I only mostly agree with it.  On most days, I spend my time: I get my stuff done, I keep my promises, I enjoy myself or I don’t. I suppose you could say that’s also how I spend my life. But there are also days — or at least parts of days– I devote: to nurturing, comfort, protection, love, community, and everything else that matters to me. So that means my life is made up of that devotion, too.

 

For time to be devoted, not merely spent, I have to give each moment more than just my attention — more, even, than my full attention. The time I devote becomes more than a commodity, more than something that can be spent. Time devoted is me offering my best available self  to a broken corner of the world I can reach: does someone need to be fed? Comforted? Protected? Loved? I am here. I give myself to that need in this moment.

 

The time I devote becomes more than a commodity, more than something that can be spent. Time devoted is me offering my best available self  to a broken corner of the world I can reach …

 

I wish there were a widely accepted formula for how to balance Time Spent with Time Devoted, but even if there were, I wouldn’t be able or willing to apply it. Sometimes I approach what I’m doing with the deepest reverence but then can’t sustain it; sometimes my work doesn’t turn out to be worthy of my devotion; sometimes I run to the grocery store, intending to pick up a couple of things for lunches or a rotisserie chicken for dinner, and wind up buying the ingredients for rice pudding. I’m surprised by devotion as often as I plan it, so intention isn’t always what distinguishes one kind of time from the other. I intended to spend last weekend relaxing with my family after a rather shaky start to the school year, but wound up devoting most of my time and myself to supporting a family I have never met, who just lost their little girl. I think part of devotion is reception; if I’m asking the questions about who needs me, then I have to be willing to hear the answers above the roar of my own plans.

 

And part of devotion is discernment. I can’t give everything I have to everything I do … if everything is sacred, then nothing is.  On most days, I will spend my time: I will get my stuff done, keep my promises, and enjoy myself or not. But on some days I will pour milk, rice, sugar, and vanilla into a deep casserole dish and add a pinch of salt, grate nutmeg over the top. I will put it in the oven, stir all afternoon, devote my best self to it, feed it to any broken corner of the world I can reach until it becomes more than the sum of its parts. Until my life becomes more than the sum of its parts.

 

Rice pudding Dish 112815

 

GramBea’s RICE PUDDING  

           
2 quarts milk (2% is best in my opinion, but of course you could make it with 1% or whole; I wouldn’t use skim)

½ cup long-grain white rice

½ cup sugar

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract

pinch of salt

freshly grated nutmeg
Preheat oven to 325˚F. In a deep 2-qt casserole, combine first five ingredients, then grate nutmeg on top. Bake at 325˚F for about an hour and a half, stirring with a wooden spoon every half an hour.  Then turn oven up to 350˚F and bake until pudding thickens to desired consistency, stirring every 10-15 minutes. Cooking time should be between 2 ½  and 3 hours.
Cool pudding to room temperature and then chill it in the refrigerator, at least 2 hours or overnight.

GramBea served it plain, but I add fresh bananas and whipped cream 😉

 

Eulogy

My mom died from lung cancer (no, she wasn’t a smoker) in March of this year. Yesterday, we all gathered at the Minneapolis Club downtown to express our love and respect at her memorial service. It was beautiful — perfect, really– and I know my mom would have loved it. I delivered a eulogy for her (somehow without tears, though I lost my place a couple of times).  For those of you who couldn’t be there and have asked to read it, here it is …

 

Small arrangement 062314

 

The wisest mothers — and mine was absolutely among them– know that our ultimate purpose is to teach our children not to need us. To know and love us, yes, to respect us, absolutely, but not need. Carol Thacher was not the kind of mama who ever wanted to hear her daughter say “I would be lost without you.” She made sure I would never be.

 

So you may be surprised to hear me say that the hardest part of losing my mom has been losing her protection.  If you knew her for at least five minutes, then you know hers was not a nervous, fluttery kind of maternal protection. It was way better than that — more generous because it made both of us strong, not just her.  She was not here to shield me from the world, she was here to get me ready for it.  There were  a few times when my mom stepped in to fight a battle for which she didn’t believe I was ready, but that was rare. For the most part, her protection came in the form of empowerment –coaching me towards independence, sharing her community, and showing me how to experience motherhood within the context of womanhood.

 

I did not come home to milk and cookies after school, unless I was at my grandma’s. If I wanted cookies — and I ALWAYS want cookies– I was going to have to learn to bake them myself. So I did. My mom loved to talk about me as a 5th or 6th-grader, home alone after school with the television and stereo both blaring, teaching myself by trial and significant error how to follow recipes. In her office downtown, she would take a call from a client about a lease she was negotiating, then a call from me.

 

“Um, Mom? Sorry to bother you, but my recipe calls for corn syrup and all we have is corn oil. I can use that instead, right?”

 

Then a call from another client seeking her counsel about a tenant dispute, then another from me, apologizing for the egg white that dripped into the silverware drawer. She giggled at the juxtaposition and answered everyone’s questions. She didn’t tell me to stop baking and she didn’t rush home to take over — she let me make my messy mistakes, trusting that I would ultimately work it out. 

 

She was not here to shield me from the world, she was here to get me ready for it.

 

I know there were — and maybe still are– people who felt sorry for me because she wasn’t home with me after school, but I love what I learned to do on my own. And I love my mom for giving me the space and the trust to do it. I love her for sending me to Camp Lake Hubert for a month every summer, where I found my best self, and I love her for teaching me how to rescue myself instead of doing it for me.  She rolled her eyes on my behalf when someone was thoughtless or petty, but then came the smile, the slow nod. “I know you can handle this, Lamby.” So I did — sometimes well, sometimes not. It didn’t matter. The point was that she believed I could and expected me to try. That is still the point now.

 

There was plenty of time alone in the house, yes, but I was never alone in the world.  From the beginning, she surrounded both of us with powerful nurturers, thoughtful teachers, creative problem-solvers, wise counselors –to raise us both, through childhood and beyond. She shared everyone : her big, loving, musical, complicated family; her devoted, brilliant, meddlesome friends, her accomplished, formidable, deliberate professional network.  I was welcomed and loved in your homes; GramBea’s rice pudding is still my ultimate comfort food and I wouldn’t DREAM of any other birthday cake besides a Sue Burritt’s World-Famous.  Some of you graciously consented to interview me after college when there was still a chance I might turn out to be employable.  A few of you even bravely tried to teach me math.

 

There you were, every time. And here you still are. You’re checking on me, inviting me to the theater with you, walking me through the estate stuff, helping me plan today. You get credit for that, absolutely, but so does my mom. For me, your comfort and aid always were and still are an extension of my mom’s comfort and aid. If she trusted you, I trust you, almost without exception. My mom died, yes, but I am not motherless. I have you, if you’ll have me. The best mothering happens in community and communities don’t die unless we let them. This is not to say that we all have to go to each other’s birthday parties — though you really should invite me because I make excellent birthday cakes now. What I’m saying is that all of us who loved her are torches lit from the same fire. We’re related in this singular way, she brought us together,  so whenever we’re together, I  feel her taking care of me.

 

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

 

She was my mother,  always. She was clear about that from the beginning. In junior high and high school, when describing one’s mother as a best friend was in vogue , my mother would have none of it.  “There are elements of friendship in our relationship, but I am your mother, not your friend. You will have all kinds of friends throughout your life, but only one mother.” At the time I resented it, because I  understood it was my job to resent EVERYTHING she said and I took that job very seriously, but it was a loving distinction, one she never abandoned. When Steve, my stepdad, was dying from melanoma thirteen years ago, I told her she should lean on me.

 

“I am a grown woman now and I have experience with this disease,” I told her. “Just let me help you.”

 

“No,” she said. “I am your mother. You lean on ME. I don’t lean on you.”

 

I was frustrated — and not a little bit insulted– but she understood her purpose better than most, I think. Her job was to prepare me for life as a modern woman — whatever that meant then, whatever that would come to mean.  She couldn’t do that if I related to her as a peer.  Peers are the people who have gone no further than we have. She had gone much further. She was never my peer. She was my mentor, teaching by example the most essential and difficult lesson of my adult life: remembering to grow myself along with my family. For her, motherhood happened within womanhood, not the other way around.

 

She could have built her life inside of mine, engineering my every experience in terms of her own latent ambitions, but then we both would have turned out small.

 

Her great gift to me was allowing me to know her as a woman, the one she had been growing into all her life, long before I  arrived. She loved music, James Bond movies, raunchy humor, singing along with Handel’s Messiah on Christmas morning, giving advice, finding the most efficient way to do anything and everything, her career, her friends, and travel (though not packing for it). She hated gravity and woodpeckers and being inconvenienced and losing her husband. She had a wicked little computer solitaire habit, she was disciplined, competitive as hell, and threw giant tantrums when she broke a nail but was a rock in an actual crisis. Because she was a loving mother, she shared her life with me. Because she was a strong, wise woman, she never handed it over. She would do anything for me except dissolve into me. Mom, I thank you deeply and sincerely for that — not only because I got to know you as a real person, but also because I got to see what all of your hard lessons about independence and growth were for: they were for learning to live my life on my own terms.  I’m not quite there yet, but I understand.

 

My mom built an enormous, delicious, satisfying life for herself, full of the people, work, music,  theater, travel, and  causes she loved. Why shouldn’t she?  She could have built her life inside of mine, engineering my every experience in terms of her own latent ambitions, but then we both would have turned out small.  By living her own life, by pursuing what was meaningful to her, she taught me how to do it too, to be a grown woman.  I don’t always feel like one — nothing has ever made me feel more like a child than losing my mom. But I know I can figure it out and I know I am not alone. I have a big, beautiful life to live — different from hers but just as satisfying. I have a family to raise and a self to raise with them. I will not ever be lost without her. Because I am not without her — she made sure of that, too.

 

Carol & Marta 1977

 

Begging the Question

 

Last Day at Eden Lake
© 2015 Marta C Drew

 

We do all of the laundry. Imagine if the Alps, the Himalayas, and the Rockies were all connected and made out of inside-out sweatshirts, Pixar jammies, and tiny Hello Kitty panties. That’s most of our laundry rooms on most days.

 

We cook. We spend hours, days, weeks, months, YEARS collecting recipes, then shop for the obscure ingredients, then defend what we spent on them, then prepare the meal, then –most of the time –clean up. This is what we hear if the meal is phenomenal:

 

“Good dinner Honey.”

 

Then someone farts, then someone burps, then everyone talks about how AWESOME that was, how they can’t BELIEVE how CRAZY EXCELLENT that fart-and-burp combo was. AMAZING. This is what we hear if the meal was damn good:

 

“It’s okay, but not really my favorite.” This from our nine-year-old son, who tells us in the voice he will one day use to break up with unstable girlfriends.

 

Just use the education, the talent, the imagination, style and mind-blowing sexiness that got you here, on this bathroom floor with this pee and these gloves (I hope) and this toilet, and get it done.

 

We keep the house clean while our people work (harder than they’re ever willing to work at anything else) to keep the place looking like a low-budget zoo habitat. Why is that sticky? What kind of crumbs are those? What is that weird smell? Best not to ask. Just use the education, the talent, the imagination, style and mind-blowing sexiness that got you here, on this bathroom floor with this pee and these gloves (I hope) and this toilet, and get it done.

 

We civilize:

“That is a sofa, not a jungle gym. Please refrain from jumping on it.”

“If my cooking makes you feel like you have to throw up, please do so in the bathroom. Thank you.”

“I’d rather not see that far into you.”

“I’m afraid you’ll find that fart jokes, like houseguests and fish, start to grow old after about day three.”

“Etiquette dictates that you should not finish your dinner before the person who cooked it for you has begun.”

“The world is not your petting zoo …there are some things and people we need not touch to enjoy.”

“Try not to eat anything you found in your nose.”

“You are not the center of the universe. That position is held by the sun …the exquisitely silent sun.”

 

This is not an exhaustive list.

 

We grow people. First we grow them inside of us, then push them out (I don’t want to talk about it) and grow them on the outside. Some of us breastfeed, some of us formula feed, some of us do both. Either way, we’re up several times a night feeding/diapering/burping/checking to make sure they’re breathing.

 

As they grow, we read article after article about the scientific link between child nutrition and our shitty mothering, the scientific link between childhood depression and our shitty mothering, the scientific link between child stupidity and our shitty mothering. We make our own baby food with fruits and vegetables we grew ourselves (lots of spare time in this job) from heirloom organic seeds we found in the Sundance catalog for $700.00 per envelope. We harvest the vegetables, put them through a food mill, a food processor, a strainer, and finally into a ceramic personalized bowl that seemed like a great idea when we were pregnant. From there, our stupid baby (our fault) throws the whole mess on the floor.

 

Then we cry and give them a dusty jar of Gerbers, which they devour as if Chef Thomas Keller made it himself.

 

We agonize over the right friends, the right schools, the right combination of athletics and artistic enrichment. We read to them, make sure they do their homework, sign them up for camp. We douse them in sunscreen and bugspray only to find out in August that everyone else knew in June that the brand of sunscreen we use is full of potent carcinogens. Then we self-flagellate.

 

As they grow, we read article after article about the scientific link between child nutrition and our shitty mothering, the scientific link between childhood depression and our shitty mothering, the scientific link between child stupidity and our shitty mothering.

 

We check daily for lice, rashes, viruses, depression, tumors, drug abuse, seizures, eating disorders, anxiety, and whatever else is going around. We volunteer at school (but not too much), we get involved with sports (but not too much), we show up at every poetry reading, tipi-making event, book club, swim meet, hockey game, glockenspiel recital, and gallery opening to cheer and take a thousand digital photos, which we immediately put into custom photo books for the grandparents. We forget to order one for ourselves.

 

When they’re sick or injured –whether it’s bad or not– we read and sing and carry them, though they’re much too big to be carried and we’ll need months of chiropractic work afterwards, for what feels like miles through schools, across fields, malls, museums, hospitals until they feel better, falling asleep in our shaking arms. We hold them down for immunizations or IV inserts or basic dental work. We crawl in bed with them at 3:30 am to scratch their backs while they cough so hard they almost throw up. We tell them for the thousand-and-tenth time that they’re safe and cozy in their beds; the “funder” won’t hurt them.

 

We do all of this –or most of it– gladly, grateful for the experience, for the infinite expansion of our hearts and minds. But it does beg the question:

 

Why, whywhywhy, WHY, when people ask us if we work, do we keep saying no?

 

Drewlets together Easter 2010

 

If You Build It

Christmas Croissants 2014
© 2015 Marta C Drew

 

I have all kinds of cozy spots in my house, perfect for sipping wine (yes, in the middle of the day) with my girlfriends while the kids play (silently –so silently) nearby. There’s a sofa in the living room for heart-to-hearts about aging parents, the intensity of the early-childhood years, or how hard it is to find a decent pair of jeans for less than $200.00. The sectional in the family room is just LONGING to host stupid-tv and/or Jane Austen movie pajama parties.

 

I make gorgeous popcorn on my stovetop (European butter and sea salt are a given), my scone recipe is superb, my soups are quite good, and I boast a truly excellent collection of coffee table books and soft throws. Throw pillows? Please. You can’t imagine how many throw pillows …so many throw pillows that it takes my husband 20 minutes to throw them all on the floor, rolling his eyes and muttering the whole time, before he can sit down (that’s how you know there are almost enough).

 

No big deal if your little peanut or lamby or chickadee spills or poops or pees or throws up or starts levitating –nothing we haven’t seen here before. I have juice boxes and granola bars and cheddar bunnies and apples and pears and macaroni & cheese. I have extra diapers, a high chair, a swing, a Pack n’ Play, baby gates, baby toys, baby books, baby clothes (for boys or girls) in every size. I have a weather radio, Kids’ Tylenol, Advil, allergy medicine, vitamins, calcium, diaper cream, antibiotic ointment, Eucerin, Aquaphor, and 40 bazillion Band-Aids. I have sleds, ice-skates, roller blades, bikes, helmets, sidewalk chalk, Play-doh, washable markers, washable crayons, beads for the over-threes, wooden blocks for the under-threes, Disney movies (I know where to fast-forward if your babies are sensitive); Sesame Street, Curious George, and Clifford are already recorded on our DVR. I have built a family-friendly theme-park-meets-impenetrable-fortress-meets-panic room over here.

 

I have built it, but nobody is coming.

 

Before you write me off as some sad, friendless lump, please listen to me when I tell you I have no shortage of truly excellent girlfriends. They’re funny, they’re smart, they’re universally beautiful and interesting and talented. On the few occasions when we’re able to get together, the whole date from beginning to end is marvelous fun.

 

There’s laundry and scrubbing sinks and toilets and tubs and volunteering –don’t forget the volunteering; you don’t want everyone to think you’re over there doing nothing.

 

WHEN we can get together. It’s rare. There’s swimming and skiing and hockey and horseback riding and piano and sometimes work and family game night and family birthday parties and violin and chess and architecture camp and Harry Potter camp and canoe simulations and CPR training and competitive dance and artisanal bread baking and calligraphy and glass-blowing and extreme tennis and picking up this child for a dentist appointment and dropping that one off at a birthday party and stopping by Mother’s place because there’s something going on with the dog and cleaning out the laundry room and cleaning out the basement and bringing someone a pan of lasagna because she just found out she has breast cancer. There’s laundry and scrubbing sinks and toilets and tubs and volunteering –don’t forget the volunteering; you don’t want everyone to think you’re over there doing nothing.

 

Even if we’re actually able to carve out some free morning once in a while, or an evening when we’re not sitting in the bleachers at some pool or hockey rink or gym, we need some time to stare at the walls, try and focus for a minute, reclaim who we used to be, at least catch up on who’s running for President this time.

 

Maybe we’ll get on the phone for a while with a girlfriend and that will feel a little bit better, make us giggle a little bit about something her daughter said or feel less alone about the laundry. But we’re still alone most of the time, either with or without the kids or the husband or the aging parents. That’s unnatural; women are supposed to do this job together  –we’ve just become too evolved and civilized to remember that.

 

Here’s what I want –it’s not a lot: I want one three-hour segment of time per week –morning, noon, or night– when one or more girlfriends come over, with or without children, to kvetch and/or drink tea/wine/hard liquor and/or make fun of Donald Trump/people I can’t name here/the Kardashians with me. Or be totally quiet. Or cry. Or whimper. Or laugh really really hard, possibly until someone pees (your secret is always safe with me and I have plenty of under-$200-jeans you can borrow). They can bring their laundry to fold or we can make chocolate sauce for our kids’ teachers or cut out pandas from construction paper. Or nothing. I don’t care. I just don’t want to do this job alone.