Jenny, Megy, and I have been friends since before we were women. We learned our first adult words together. This story is for them in honor of Women’s History Month.
Megy arrives thirty minutes before I anticipate only because I think she’ll arrive thirty minutes late, per the pattern of our lifetime. Apparently, patterns change with pandemics. We jump in excitement over the big reunion like jump rope is about to go Double Dutch—Jenny will be here any minute. After two years, we will all be together again.
“I want an impromptu BBQ,” I say, “Is that too much?”
“What a great idea, oh, but I get it – I don’t know.”
“I don’t want anything overwhelming; just us raw, good times—”
“Yes, yes.” In unison as tears streak our cheeks. Exact words don’t matter when emotions are playing out. The good time has already begun. Megy’s four-year-old and Kody are engaged in whatever discussion happens between children when parental engagements bring them close.
Kody hears the knock and commotion at the door first. Megy and I can’t hear. Our guffaws over an untold joke are turning to snort laughs, clasping our mouths like how dare we be this hilarious?!
“I’ll get the door for our second guests, Mom,” Kody says unfazed by our uproar, as she hurries by and offers a wink. Megy and I run behind her to the door just as she’s opening it. Jenny is already gushing in a sing-song- way.
“Kody! You’re so big! You’ve gotten so big! Hi..hi…hi…” with two boys in tow, Jenny makes her way inside, hugs, cheek kisses, and head pats. I nearly cry at the sight of her unmasked face. I’ve been looking at this face since I was eleven years old, I think to myself.
Megy, Jenny, and I talk at the same time while the boys mosey around under Kody’s leadership. I’m getting us set up with iced teas and water spritzers. A housewarming plant is set on the table that I won’t acknowledge until 9:30p.m.—it’s that kind of a whirlwind. The kids settle into Legos on the floor while we moms talk about how abruptly our lives changed with schooling, with covid, with commutes, and jobs. Every story regardless of content has weight, static energy to it like our words alone are creating friction in the air that gives the large open living room a buzz louder than a fourth of July party. I am not kidding.
Seemingly out of nowhere, but I’m pretty sure the request was first whispered in her ear, Kody says, “Mom, can I put on my bathing suit and go swimming?”
“I’m okay with that. What do you think?” I say turning to Jenny and Megy.
They both nod along with their boys. A fest of towels and suits fly in the air in a speed shuffle to the backyard for pool time. Jenny and I sit in the wicker rockers, bought at Lowe’s not long ago. While Megy sits across from us, perched on a turquoise, yellow & red beanbag. Megy, five months pregnant, but looking ten, sits both legs spread so her belly can hang. She wears a one-piece, Hawaiian swimsuit cream and brown with huge palm leaves. She looks radiant. Her hair has greyed almost entirely, but she’s streaked it with shades of purple in the front and wears it up like a bouffant, or whatever that puffy bang-roll is called. Jenny too is glowing in jeans, a black t-shirt, Frida Kahlo socks, and Birkenstock sandals. I’m not sure if I’m sparkling like them without make-up, but I feel aglow, in my blue McMenamins Grand Lodge t-shirt and tan shorts.
I don’t have makeup on because the day is extremely busy, I’m not used to wearing it. I’ve decided against it since I burst into tears easily these days. Given the earlier gush with Megy, I’m glad I don’t have to worry about mascara down my face. I wonder how drab I appear to Megy and Jenny but brush off the thought because it’s my Megy and my Jenny.
We’re poolside now continuing our stories and catch-up session periodically looking at the children in wonderment; they all mesh like they were meant for this moment. They are meant to be together too. Jenny pops up to get some photos. Megy does the same, and I realize I’m not sure where my phone is. I may not always know where my phone is, but I am sickly aware fifteen minutes before Kody will feel hunger. I’ve had this awareness since her birth and I can verify its accuracy now that she’s older and I do my countdown… 3-2-1, “Mom! I’m hungry!”
I’m listening to Megy explain to Jenny her latest job and ten-foot wall art project and well… I knew this story, so I jump up to start boiling water.
“What do you think? It’s only five, get a BBQ going? Make some Mac? That’s easy…” I say.
When Jenny seems to perk at the possibility, I go into full-blown prep mode and internal excitement overload. It doesn’t have to be stressful. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming. We can continue our friendship while mothering, while imagining a different world. I keep this thought as my insides burst with joy bubbles and Shawn Colvin sings, “Fill Me Up.”
Zucchini, whole garlic cloves, potatoes, corn, green chilies, and veggie burgers are somehow grilled to perfection. It’s my first time BBQ’ing without Jennifer and really, only my second time BBQ’ing period, so this win is a special one for me. We eat and comment on the good weather, good time, and good food. They are overly grateful:
“This is a lot! It’s too much!”
“We weren’t expecting this!”
“I mean, I love it, but no… look at the mess!”
“I mean, look at this mess. I can help!”
“Can I help? How can I help?”
“I just don’t want you to think it’s overwhelming. It’s not. It’s not too much.” I say honestly, the idea of not knowing when this could happen again because it feels overwhelming is my biggest fear. These get-togethers have to happen again because our sanity depends on it.
We are linked. The three of us are connected in a history that precedes any of our immediate families. We met when our parents had the most influence over our lives and we grew into ourselves always with each other on the sidelines, gauging from each other how well our adulting was coming along. We counted pennies before buying groceries and determined that if sun-dried tomatoes were that expensive and we couldn’t live without them, we’d have to make them a central part of our diet. We ate every meal with sundried tomatoes and garlic for a year.
Now we talk about affording organic and the luxury of not having to cut corners when it comes to food. We can talk about such things with reverence because we lived a different reality once, and we lived it together. It’s different than forming relationships that become close but don’t have a rich history. You can only share what you’ve lived from your experience if you choose to share at all. When you’ve lived a past of so many years together, there’s already knowing because both sides of stories exist in the knowing, the history. If given the opportunity, I’m sure I can find more words to stretch out the notion that we’re each other’s Day Ones, OGs, Ride-or-Dies. It’s a comforting thing to feel known for so long. We are permanently locked together. Nothing can break our tie. Nothing can stop these forces that bring us closer to a sense of self that’s connected to a larger, maternal system. We are knitting the stories that define us and keep us warm under our thick friendship blanket.