Saturday, October 18, 2008
“Mom, come over. We have company.” A simple invitation.
I had already changed into my robe and pajamas, looking forward to just tuning out and going to bed early. Yet, an old friend, the mother of Jenn’s friend, Ali, was in town for Grandparents’ Day and now at my daughter’s house with her clan. We had already caught up with each other over lunch at our grandkids’ school. A lot of family history, hers and mine, has been written since we saw each other last. We both have been feeling vulnerable, responsible, overwhelmed, unsettled, challenged, surprised, euphoric and ... older.
I made the effort, changed clothes, and walked in to a cacophony of barking dogs, squealing kids, and grown-up chatter in the kitchen where Jenn was cooking up an impromptu batch of pasta for a now full house. The energy was palpable: three moms, two grandmothers, a close friend from Grinnell, two dogs and six little girls roaming about.
Ali’s mom and I, wine glasses in hand, found a cozy nook in the kitchen and settled in. We picked up the conversation where we last ended. Suddenly, I realized how much I missed being in touch with this woman. She and I first met almost twenty years ago when our daughters were college freshmen. Through the years, time and circumstance have brought us together. We have been through late-life divorces, daughters’ showers and weddings, births of babies. She came into New York city to applaud my accordion gig at the NUYorican Café; I attended an HBO film screening for her older daughter. She came to the production of Jenn’s one-act play at the Ensemble Studio theatre; I jumped for joy when her older daughter won an Academy Award, an Oscar for her short-film documentary. All the while, we were living alone, fighting our own private battles around the swirling events of our grown children’s lives. We’ve weathered some health scares and physical changes. Just to be in her company again, last night, was deeply satisfying, renewing. We get it. We may not see each other often, but there is a thread that ties us together. As she was leaving with her crew, we exchanged phone numbers and promised to spend a weekend together soon. I’ll drive down to her house (about a four-hour trip) and we’ll continue, once again, letting each other in. Our daughters have been there for each other; why shouldn’t we do the same?
Last night’s gathering at Jenn’s house wasn’t just two grandmothers enjoying each other’s company. It was everyone finding something they needed.
I drove home thinking of one of my favorite poems,
Plainness by Jorge Luis Borges:
The garden’s grillwork gate
opens with the ease of a page
in a much thumbed book
and, once inside, our eyes
have no need to dwell on objects already fixed and exact in memory.
Here habits and minds and the private language
all families invent
are everyday things to me.
What necessity is there to speak
or pretend to be someone else?
The whole house knows me,
they’re aware of my worries and weakness.
This is the best that can happen.
What heaven perhaps will grant us:
not to be wondered at or required to succeed
but simply to be let in
as part of an undeniable Reality,
like stones of the road, like trees.
Indeed, what heaven will grant. We are such fragile creatures.