Moms Stick Together

Moms stick together.

My daughter, a senior in high school, was just accepted to my alma mater, and we have paid the enrollment deposit. Next fall, she will be attending a university that is 450 miles away from home…450 miles away from us! But thinking about it doesn’t cause me great stress, for a number of reasons. One reason is that we live in Charlotte, a hub city for American Airlines. We can hop on one of five or six daily flights and be by her side pretty quickly. Another reason? I’m familiar with the surroundings there; there is some comfort in familiarity. The main reason? I know lots of people who live pretty close to the university who can act quickly to help her if needed. There is a lot of comfort in that.

Last Friday, at a high school football game, I was chatting with the mother of another senior, and she told me her son is interested in the same school, but they are hesitant for him to go there, because it’s so far away! A six or seven hour drive! I reminded her that we can be there quickly on American Airlines. And then I told her what every mom really wants to hear: I have lots of friends in the area who can be there to help with just one phone call, and I’m happy to make introductions. Moms like to know their college-age kids have someone to help them if they need it. Sure, they’ll be eighteen years old, but people need support systems…even at my age, I need a support system. When I told my friend that I know other moms and dads there who will be happy to help, I could see her relax. “Really? That makes me feel so much better,” she said.

One thing I’ve learned from being a mother for the last almost-18-years is that moms have to support each other. We have to stick together. We have to help each other.

Three years ago, my friend, Wendy, passed away after a long battle with various forms of cancer. I had met Wendy through a toddler playgroup right after my daughter turned one. Today is her 50th birthday, so I’ve had her on my mind. I posted something on Instagram and on Facebook about her birthday, and all our playgroup moms commented. One of them sent a text saying, “Thinking of Wendy today and that always makes me think of you all and the playgroup that saved my life and enriched my girls’ childhood. Love you all.” And she wasn’t exaggerating. We were all first-time moms when we met, and we truly saved each other. We started as a weekly playgroup but went on to become best friends, support systems, confidantes…we saved each other, for sure. With toddlers, life can be lonely, but our weekly playgroup turned into friendship so strong that we gathered almost daily. It saved our sanity and gave our kids a support group too!

All our kids went on to different preschools, kindergartens, elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. They’ll probably all go to different colleges. But along the way, they’ve always known that core playgroup was rooting for them. They might not get together regularly, but they’re still friends. They know who they really are. They know their childhood would not have been the same without each other. And along the way, the playgroup moms have added other support systems, but we still know we have each other…no matter what.

I know our kids have learned a lot from us (and vice versa), but I hope that, along the way, they learned the importance of finding and maintaining a good support system. They saw their moms supporting each other, propping each other up when it was needed. I like to think they know that, no matter where they are in college, if they need someone to call, they can always call one of the playgroup moms. They can even call one of the playgroup kids…the ones who are almost adults now. And I hope they share that support system with other people who need it.

Don’t we all feel like that mom who is concerned about her son being 450 miles away without a support system? Don’t we all like to know there is someone we can call or someone our children can call in an emergency, or if they just need to talk with someone?

Two weeks ago, a college friend I haven’t seen in years texted me, telling me she was afraid her teenage son might be stranded in the Charlotte Airport and asking me about hotels near the airport. There is no way I would have let her teenage son go to a hotel, and I’m sure she knew that, but she didn’t want to impose. I texted her back, saying, “I don’t live too far from the airport. If he is stranded, call me, and I will bring him to our house for the night.” Another friend in Ohio had called me two weeks before that, asking if I could pick up an Ohio friend’s daughter at the airport and keep her for the night if she missed her connection. Of course I could! I was flattered to be asked! And you know why?!?! Because I want to be part of someone’s support system. I certainly would have called on those friends to help my daughter if needed!

So yes, we moms have to stick together…especially the moms of high school seniors who are preparing to go off to college. I’m putting it out there now: if your child is going to college in or near Charlotte, put me on your list of people to call in an emergency. I’ll always help.

Gone But Not Forgotten

Today is the anniversary of the death of a very dear friend. We became friends in 2004, right after my daughter turned one, and her son (her first child) was about six months old. Our lives were intertwined for years. Dynamics changed as our kids got older. My friend took a job. She moved to the west coast. She and her husband divorced. They moved again to the east coast…New England. But we always remained friends. Was our friendship always perfect? No. She was hurt when she took her job and our playgroup didn’t envelope her kids the way we should have. We didn’t always agree with each other’s decisions. But we were friends. We were the kind of friends who would have always been friends…and then she died.

And here’s what I always hear…”Life goes on.” But what exactly does that mean? Her life didn’t go on, but the lives of her children, family, and friends have gone on. Because she had moved away years ago and never answered her phone, she wasn’t a part of our daily lives in Charlotte anymore. But she was a part of my life…and she was a part of the lives of others. I’m not going to say all that sappy stuff like “she lit up a room”…or “she was always good.” People were drawn to her, and I was flattered that she picked me as her friend. But she wasn’t perfect, just like I’m not. But dang it…she was my friend. And she was the mother to two children…now aged 13 and 15. She was the daughter of two wonderful parents who loved her beyond measure, and her sister and brother….well, they adored her too. She loved her family more than anything, and they were always active in her life. But her life stopped on June 4, 2018. Gone too soon. She was just 46, even though the priest at her funeral kept saying she was 47…that actually made me chuckle during the service, thinking of what her response would have been, “Are you kidding me?! Don’t make me older than I am!”

She was active. She exercised all the time and ate really well most of the time…even though we did love eating Doritos together late at night when we vacationed in Maine. She loved red licorice, Zotz candy, and Spree candy. Those were her weaknesses…her guilty pleasures. She didn’t eat them all the time, but she sure enjoyed them when she had them! There was a candy store in Kennebunkport, Maine, that sold the perfect red licorice for her, and we were regulars there. Once, she was going to another store, so I went to stock up on candy. I had forgotten my wallet, so she gave me her credit card and her drivers license. I laughed, saying, “Ummm…if they ask for ID for the credit card, there is no way they are going to believe this!” She was tall, dark, and Irish/Italian. I’m short, fair, and Anglo. She said, “Just take it!” Luckily, they didn’t ask for ID, so I was able to stock up on licorice, Zotz, Spree, and good old-fashioned candy cigarettes for us. Go ahead. Grimace. We didn’t care. Candy cigarettes were old school, and we liked them.

My friend had suffered since she was a teenager with various types of cancer. Lymphoma, breast cancer, leukemia…life wasn’t easy for her, but she kept living it…till she didn’t. I think I always believed she would continue to beat cancer…till she didn’t.

Her children, a boy and a girl, are being raised by their very capable dad. He’s a good dad, exposing them to the world while also making sure their souls are nourished. They go to camp with other children who have lost parents to cancer. They have loving grandparents, and they have aunts and uncles who love them too. But they don’t have their mother. She’s not there every day to encourage them to finish homework. She’s not there to hug them when they need it. She’s not there to guide them, listen to them, help them, parent them.

So yes, life goes on…but it goes on without my friend. For her children, life goes on without their mother. For her parents…without their daughter.

Things happen all the time that make me think of her. Every time I go to Dunkin’ Donuts and order an iced coffee with extra cream, I think of her. Every time I drive past her old house in Charlotte…at least twice a week (I do it intentionally)…I think of her. Every time I think of summer on the beach in Maine…I think of her. Or summers at the pool…all our friends had memberships at different clubs, so we would alternate the pools we visited during the summer. Every time I eat Spree or Zotz, I think of her. I even saw a Santander Bank in Cancun and thought of her…she had worked for them at one time. I was talking with someone last week about Mike’s Pastries in Boston…thought of my friend; she introduced my daughter to cannolis at Mike’s Pastries. Every time someone mentions the Virginia Creeper bike trail, I think of her and the time we took our children…it turned into a comedy of errors, but we survived. Every time I pass the hospital, I think of her, because we actually spent quality time there together, when she was having chemo. Mention California Pizza Kitchen, and I think of the time she almost died from an anaphylactic reaction when we were having lunch there. When I think of my daddy’s cancer diagnosis, I think of her too, because I was on my way to dinner with her when I found out Daddy had pancreatic cancer. And every time I hear about a young person who has cancer, I think of her and how long she fought.

My friend hasn’t been forgotten. She is still a part of our lives and our regular conversations. She taught us a lot about friendship.¬†Tonight, our playgroup friends will gather for dinner, sans kids, to drink a toast to our friend who is no longer with us…one year gone. Life goes on…but it goes on differently.