I'm writing this long hand (well, now I'm transposing it) from my personal hell on earth, Chuck-E-Cheese. I haven't been here in years. Is my memory fading or was it tolerable when there are this few kids? Usually I think of C-E-C as punishment for having kids, but today I'm sitting near the window overlooking scenic (ha) Applebee's parking lot and knitting. It seems like an ok use of my time.
N has new friend who is allergic to dogs, so I was scrambling to find an alternative to playing at our house. The boys came up with this. Not as cheap as my idea (ice cream) but the boys are enjoying skeet ball. Best of all, I can knit to my heart's content.
This morning I was in the opposite of this room. Yes it was noisy - and sometimes smelly - but a completely different experience. It was as if I were two separate people in two countries. I spent a wonderful morning roaming the Upper West Side with my friend JL and her husband D. We talked, walked and searched for just the right place to have a bagel and coffee/tea/eggs. It was a simple morning, but I was so happy to see them. It was wonderful to know that no matter how much time goes by I always fall into the natural flow of our old friendship. I could have spent weeks with her talking through the night, as we used to do. She is a beautiful person and her husband is so fortunate to live with her. BTW I still have her copy of The Prince. She'll have to come pick it up!
In the past seeing college friends has caused me a bit of internal tension. I went to college with some very smart, talented people who have bloomed into interesting adults. While I love to see them, it sometimes brings a tinge of regret and jealousy. Until very recently I was the only one of my close college friends to choose to stay at home to raise kids. While I attend PTO meetings, they attend board meetings, travel to conferences or sales events or teach college students. Their careers span a broad spectrum of fields and (presumed) incomes. At least one friend has balanced a big career with the challenges of being a single Mom. Only about 1/3 of my college friends have kids.
When I think about my expensive education (in addition to my BA I have a pretty useless MA) I often feel wasteful. I see all these women in my life - from college and otherwise - who juggle work and kids, and I am often impressed at their versatility. When I see or hear about my friends exciting careers I sometimes sigh: why didn't I choose a different academic path, one with an obvious outcome? I could have been a...
... and I'm not even sure how to end that thought.
Today I was in the apartment of one such friend, with a sensational career and cosmopolitan lifestyle. I've always been a bit envious of her and I found the little green woman in me is still alive and kicking. It probably was good she didn't see me drool over her fab NYC apartment too. She hangs with international jet setters, she has a home on two continents - and her parents live on a third. She has everything I ever thought I wanted when I was in college.
But today was strange. For the first time in the 20 years since I met her I also felt sorry for HER! Her closest family are all on other continents. She has never been married - has no boyfriends worth mentioning, and she doesn't even have a cat to come home to. Although it was gorgeous, her apartment was sparsely decorated, although she'd been there for 2 or 3 years - just around a dozen books, a few pictures and a few pieces of art.
For me, all the money, prestige and frequent flier miles in the world can't be traded in for the key relationships in my life. I too have lived far away from my family - both on this continent and others. While it sounds very glamorous, in practicality, its actually quite unfortunate. Now my Dad lives a few hours away but he happily stays with us for several months a year. We cook together. We shop together. We talk incessantly. While I complain to no end about the schlepping, my kids are my joy. Several times a week I catch myself tearing up as I watch them do something that I am proud of or happy to witness. Yesterday it was moving to see how excited my son was about dissecting a squid. My husband is my rock. My partner and my friend. What would I do without him??? He happily supports me while I stay at home.
In addition to these and other wonderful family members whom I can call on day or night for love, fun and affection, I have my friends. Old and new. How many coffees do I share each week with them? How many glasses of wine have made their way down while we discuss the news of the day? Who is there for me when I cry? My friends. As I said, old and new!
So while I have often felt I am losing out by this hiatus from the working world, it is important to be reminded how happy I really am in my life.
Chuck-E-Cheese has grown more crowded and unpleasant. Just as I remember it. Time to bring the play time to a close.