Once I had a conversation with an old friend. It was months ago. And we were hundreds of miles apart but feeling some of the same things. She called while I was on my way into starbucks to meet someone else. But I don’t get to talk to her everyday so I stood outside, leaned against the brick wall and we spoke about how we both felt a little bit broken.
And mostly how we don’t want to be. And unsure how to talk about it with other people. And then I went inside and ordered an Americano and I’m sure pretended to be just fine and together.
Today, like most weekends, we had a kid’s birthday party to attend. Someone in my daughter’s class that I have never met. And unless it is a really close friend I almost always dread these. They are right up there with organize my sock drawer, clean out the fridge and grading papers for ways I least want to spend my weekend. It is just socially awkward, loud, and boring. The only bonus is that it usually ends with cupcakes. I have several coping mechanisms, I often volunteer to take pictures and recently I have even started bringing books. This time, I didn’t have my camera, or a book and my phone only had a few bars left on it.
I found the right party, which is difficult since I didn’t know the birthday boy and the only thing Tess gave me to go on was that he had “grey” hair. ( it is brown by the way). But I found the correct lane got Tess into some super cute tiny bowling shoes introduced myself and found a place on a nearby couch and wondered if anyone would notice if I took a nap.
There was a young mom there with her son who was currently giggling with my daughter and another boy from their class. She had a ring in her nose and her eyebrow and smelled faintly of cigarettes. She smiled warmly and initiated some conversation. I am always intimidated by the mom scene, but figured it must be even more awkward for her, so I listened and talked. Not long into the conversation she mentioned a nasty custody battle. We talked about other things briefly, but eventually it came out that I knew her son’s father. That he used to be a student at the school I used to teach at. The second I said I knew him. She asked for my hand. Which I thought was awkward, but gave it to her anyways.
She pulled it to her forhead. Pressed my fingers into it’s side and said, “Feel that? It is a metal plate from where he kicked my skull in.”
And I said something about being glad that she was smart enough to get away and protect her son. But mostly I felt inadequate. And I pictured this man, whose foot had been where my hand just was, like the last I had seen him. A cocky 16 year old kid that I was telling to get to class. Or watch his mouth. Or to slow down in parking lot.
And the party continued. Our kids threw gutter balls and danced to Justin Beiber. Eventually we were ushered to a party room for pizza and cake and I found myself talking pinterest recipes with another mom that didn’t look like one of my students.
But for the rest of the day, I couldn’t get that image out of my head. My hand on hers.
And shocked. That this woman, that I’d spent no more than 15 minutes talking to, had no problems showing me how she’d been broken.
And put back together.
And that maybe the rest of us moms, had a few things to learn from her.