The gathering was to be at my house, a first. Morning coffee this time, not a meal as was our last get-together, a potluck with our sons during a cheering lull of coronavirus cases in August, or the time before when we’d eaten out one Saturday evening, just the mothers and just before the pandemic, or the times before that in a bar or at the home of the easiest-going mother of the group, where we first met in the summer for a meal, kids included, years ago already. But now this spring, after months of messages lamenting our never seeing one another, it was just coffee. Just coffee used to be to bridge the gap between meals, but for now it was all there was.
Just coffee was fine. I, however, was glad of someone to bake for and planned a couple of sweets. Don’t bring anything, I told them, but each mother brought a goodie to add to what I provided. I set the table up outside but under the roof of the garage because it was a cool damp spring morning. The last to arrive looked around. The grass was cut, the flowers flourishing, the donkey grazing behind his fence, the dogs sprawled on the tarmac at the entry. Nice, she said. As I knew and she knew, she’s never been to my house before, but the other mothers got a chance to express surprise. They’d been there, after all. The first one because about 20 years earlier she’d called to ask if I’d allow her to take my son to the beach with her and her two children, assuring me there were adults along with sharp eyes and the kids would never be allowed near the water alone. She was the first mother whose name I learned. Her son and mine were inseparable for a few years. Later other friendships meant neither was the be all and end all of the other, though they are still great friends. Out of that friendship and ones with three other boys in the class, all from roughly the same area, grew our group of mothers, first standing around chatting at elementary school functions, spending time together when we dropped off or picked up our boys from birthday parties or sleepovers, sharing information about the kids, sending snapshots around, and eventually meeting for our own sake.
We talked that morning of our kids, our jobs, our health, and our worries about the vaccines, our stories about who had suffered what effects with which vaccine. Only one of us had been vaccinated at the time, but we all had stories. I hopped up and ran inside to refill the coffee thermos. “What? What?” I asked on my return, eager to keep abreast of the talk—of the friendship, really, since talk, not material aid or emotional support, is the core. And talk evolves.
I’m glad to say that we mothers have outgrown the boys and keep our friendship—a friendship of mothers—going all on our own. We don’t need them. That’s probably what kids dream of—independence for their parents. Mothers who can quit mothering. Meanwhile, what do mothers dream of? I’m still finding out, little by little. We didn’t choose each other—our kids did. Strangely that makes for a tighter relationship, as if because we didn’t choose, we can’t unchoose. We just are. And glad to be.
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