There’s a literary device where a character is killed off once his usefulness has been tapped out. (Spoiler: Dumbledore). The less dramatic version is when they move to a new town or perhaps do a sabbatical year in Norway. And then the other characters have to figure it out, use what they learned and win the day on their own.
I lucked into two different “mom” groups as my kids have grown from itty-bitty to big, and now the moms who recruited me out of my hermitage in the first place have left.
I tried an official MOMS group, and found two of my tribe amongst them. The MOMS group was a dud, but the three us made our own group and bonded while our kids played next to each other in my dirt pile. When those two left, one for Canada and one for Puerto Rico, in the same month, I was bereft. From a distance, they are still teaching me about patience, presence and perseverance.
When my son was a few months old, a family friend asked me to welcome a new mom to town, so I crawled out of my cave and tried. And then she was the one who brought me to a Mom and Baby club before moving back east. I walked into this house up the street from me, called the mom who would become a personal safety net the wrong name, and I was in.
The moms and kiddos I met that day are still the backbone of my Madison community. Our kids have grown up together. The mom-est mom of that group is the one everyone counted on for emergency babysitting, fruit drop-offs, school snacks, play dates, beach parties, hot meals and everything else. She made my kids eat vegetables and go grocery shopping and be responsible and kind. She got me to join Facebook. Aaaand…She moved away this summer. Because this is a town of transients and jetsetters. It shouldn’t be a surprise any longer that people who come here often move on, but it still stings. I still almost let myself into her old house to use the bathroom or get some chocolate on a run. One of her many ‘jobs’ was spending quality time at the school and sending fresh snacks. I feel as though someone has to step up and do the things she did.
When my daughter went through her unsleeping phase, we bonded with the owls in the neighborhood. We’d be up and hear barred and Great Horned owls night after night. She wanted so badly to hold an owl chick. So I found that great class at Aldo Leopold and she imitated an owl horking up pellets for ages after and all was well.
Another great class at Aldo Leopold Nature Center was all about scat and tracking animals. With no preamble, the teacher sat down and read the greatest book I’ve ever come across, “The Story of the Little Mole Who Went in Search of Whodunit” (Werner Holzwarth & Wolf Erlfrbruch). Poor mole comes out and something craps on his head. He wanders around with this turd hat asking WHO DID THIS?!? And each animal he comes across says “Not me. Mine looks like this…” I won’t give away the end, but Mole gets some help from a couple friends, solves the mystery and gets revenge. Sorry, I gave it away after all! Brilliant. And I look over to see four bored moms and one woman who is crying with laughter. She couldn’t even stand up straight, and I thought “AHA. A tribe member.”
This was another in a long line of moms, who made my life richer, easier and better. Amongst her many redeeming qualities, she would come over on cold, dark mornings and tell me it was time to go running. She’s a joiner and got me involved in official school activities. She too, brought in snacks and volunteered at school and made things better. She introduced me to people and made my circle bigger and better. Aaaaand…..she’s gone for the year doing quiet things with her kids and long runs in mountains.
Time to step up. Time for me to buy snacks and be there and do the things and make things better. It’s been a challenge. Truth be told, I’m still a homebody. I loathe field trips. My kids are weird about bringing in snacks. And I can’t do the PTA meetings. I just can’t. I went for years, not because it is the responsible, connected, involved thing to do, but because sometimes you just need to show up for a friend. Welp, that friend is out of the country and I’m done being talked over and down to and I can.not.do.a mock code red drill for parents. Hooray for Safety Night: A special PTA meeting wherein you get to have questions go unanswered, be told you’re concerns are invalid, AND find out precisely what your kids will be told in an active shooter situation. Hard pass.
But I can buy snacks and hassle my kids to bring them in. And I can sit on a bus with a horde of shrieking germ vectors. I can help with math and I can reshelve books. And I will. Because my mom friends taught me how.