Often I hear people say that they don’t remember who they were or what they did before kids. I nod in silent agreement, but really I don’t agree.
Because I do remember.
I remember lingering in the shoe department of Marshalls before kids, back when wedges seemed like a shoe choice I would employ with frequency.
I remember when the biggest inconvenience of last-minute drinks at 11pm on a Saturday was whether or not I felt like putting my contacts back in.
But most of all, my pre-baby memory is triggered when I think on relationships that were there before babies and are here today still.
I remember when I think specifically of you, when I think of how our friendship looked before we had husbands, before we had babies, before both overalls and Birkenstocks made an inexplicable comeback (as if we all need a little more chunk and clunk in our lives).
Do you remember when spontaneity wasn’t a luxury, but an actual way of life? Only a decade ago, you and I would ride together to get a coffee or go shopping. One of us would linger outside the dressing room and give constructive feedback, just as we had learned from Stacy and Clinton on our favorite TV show on this new cable network called TLC.
On Friday nights in college, we would stand side-by-side in the bathroom getting ready together. You would give me tips on how to curl my hair with a straightening iron and explain how to apply eye shadow. Mostly, I have forgotten these skills but I still remember you teaching them to me.
Back then, we spent late nights talking, car rides talking, side-by-side elliptical workouts talking. Generally, all activities were a means to more talking.
We leaned on each other through breakups, through family drama, and through that terrible phase where I thought my own acne was literally going to kill me.
We had so much free time and so little money in college. Both of us ate oatmeal at least once a day, because it was cheap and low in calories. We talked deep and reflected long because our conversations had the time to drift there.
It’s no secret that it’s different now. My kid literally puked into my open mouth the other night, right as I was thinking of calling you after bedtime.
This isn’t a tragedy, really, just an unspoken awareness that we carry. I miss you and you miss me and yet we are still adamantly bonded. We have kids now and full, busy lives. Our love language is phone tag and punchy texts about food and wine and how little sleep we are getting.
We mention grace to one another. We try to live in it, too.
Grace means that we are still best friends, still invested, even when we call each other once a month or every other week or send a text that only says “thinking of you.”
At any given time one of us has an unfinished text pending in messages. At any given time, one of us has completely forgotten to the call the other one back.
When we do connect on the phone, we get right down to business, interrogate each other so that we can know the most essential details in the shortest amount of time. It’s always an urgent conversation, as if this dialogue is the very last one until we die. You talk fast. I talk faster. We are data-mining each other to essentially say, “Please fill in the details between your latest Instagram posts.”
Now our backseats are crowded with car seats instead of workout clothes and purses. Now we fill our gas tanks with more than $11 at a time. Now one of us is always pregnant, so when we hang out it is virtually guaranteed that someone is drinking alone.
This is not cause for concern. Change never is.
I’m still here, I promise.
I’m still keeping track of you in the ways I know how.
For example, every time I see your photo on social media, I do not passively scroll by. I actually smile and look long. I feel true joy when I look at pictures of your kids that are thriving specifically because you are spending your whole self on them.
I know that social media seems so superficial, so contrived, so lame— but truly when I like and comment on your virtual persona it is me extending my real heart to the real you. I double-tap with deep conviction.
Picture this: I’m over here across the country leaning against the kitchen counter while my child disassembles the pantry beneath me and I’m looking at you, making the only sort of eye contact that is feasible right now in our crazy, distracted lives.
And each time we play phone tag or catch each other only for a split second; when we fall irretrievably behind on ‘catching up’ or when a baby cries and I say “let me call you right back,” and of course, I never do, because the baby needed to be disciplined or cleaned or there is an entire roll of toilet paper unraveled in the clogged toilet, you always understand.
This is grace. We are living it. We are extending it. And that makes us the truest friends.
Of course I miss the past, but I’m not grieved over it. Because I think all those years of easy overlap was preparation for this mismatched present. We didn’t know it then, but we were building a foundation of memories, of trust, of jokes we still use now when we are too exhausted to generate new ones. Back then we were learning each other to the core so that now, even when we are drifting, we can keep track of each other in small, meager ways.
For now, we are just traveling through this quick little phase of all-consuming parenthood and there are plenty of things to feel guilty about, plenty of ways to feel like we’re failing, but this shouldn’t be the thing. I refuse to let this be the thing.
You are a good friend, a good mom. I know this because I know you.
Shoulder-to-shoulder we put our heads down and get through this wonderfully exhausting season. Truly, we are closer than you think, because when I change diapers or do another load of laundry, sometimes I can feel your shoulder brushing against mine. I can sense the proximity of our shared task. We are in this together, comrades in the fight, and I’m so glad.
Grace upon grace is what ties our history to today and further into tomorrow.
Where there has been, still there is more to come.