Tag Archives: Friendship

The Space to Breathe

Some days are just like every other day. You wake. You go about your routine. You look at the clock and the time ticks by, sometimes quickly, sometimes painfully slowly, but the day carries on and before you know it you are brushing your teeth and preparing to climb in to bed and do it all again tomorrow.

Yesterday was an odd one. I did things I don’t normally do. Some of those things were very small but when I stepped back from the day and sized it up they all added up. And this morning, I feel different.

I sat down yesterday morning with a newspaper. I did not open my laptop and have coffee. I sat down with the paper. A real, live newspaper. I fear Chapel Hill News is suffering if they are delivering their paper for free to neighboring towns. I can’t count on this paper sticking around in printed form if they have resorted to giving it away but I will enjoy it while it lasts. A newspaper and a cup of coffee. That was unusual.


Later in the morning I met a new friend and her son and we walked and talked. I was late. I am never late. I cancel if I am going to be late. I was late. That is unlike me. And I did not take a single picture. I did not check my phone. Also not typical behavior. We walked and talked.

She mentioned the paralyzing freedom of having every day be so full of options. I’d not considered that fully before. The lack of structure that can be present in the life of the mother who chooses to stay at home – it can have an almost crippling presence. “But you can do whatever you want,” a friend might note. Not really. Somedays I do not do a damn thing that is “what I want.” And yet daily I am overcome with gratitude. I am all at once living the life that I have chosen, that I am deeply grateful for, and not actually very free at all some days.

Later in the evening I did another thing I rarely do.

I stopped and had two beers at a local bar in town. “Have a seat,” said a gentleman as he slid over and offered me a bar stool. It had been so long I almost said “Oh, no, no.” I couldn’t possibly sit down. I didn’t have that kind of time. I would just stand, drink a beer, and hightail it home before Lucy woke up or MQD called or … or what? I turned in to a pumpkin?

I slid in to a barstool and I felt my shoulders get lower. I felt my back get longer. I was relaxed, in my element. It had been too long. A man introduced himself, “I am Jerry, by the way.”

I smiled. “The ByTheWays, I know a lot of your people, a friendly bunch you are. I meet a ByTheWay almost everywhere I go.” He paused. And then he smiled. I apologized for my flip remark. “I spent a decade behind the bar and I have a canned response to everything, I am sorry. I haven’t been out in so damn long that that is all that’s coming to me now. Forgive me?”

We chatted about kids and our quaint little downtown. The fellow to my left interrupted me, eventually. “What are you now? Just a housewife?” I felt myself stand up straighter. “Yep. And it is fucking awesome.” I could see that he was disappointed. I think he’d been trying to rile me up and I didn’t bite. I threw him a bone. “You? What are you? Just an asshole? A prick? What name do you prefer?” He seemed pleased with himself, he’d gotten under my skin.

I smiled again and let him down easy. “I’m sorry… but you have got to be kidding me. “Just a housewife?” Come on, man, it is the 21st century. Cut the little woman some slack.” I turned to Mr. ByTheWay and said “It was really nice to meet you.” I turned back to my right and said “And you, watch your mouth,” flashing him a million dollar smile.

20130411-122721.jpgI joined my girlfriends outside and laughed some more. We talked about our kids. It was easy. It was awkward for me to realize that I actually enjoyed sitting at a table with a bunch of women having easy conversation just as much if not more than the jocular and sometimes acidic back and forth of strangers at a bar. While outside a friend mentioned a tattoo I’ve had for years. A devil-woman, nursing her baby. I got it ages ago to symbolize the union between the hell-raiser I had been and the mother I was becoming. A timely reminder that I do not have to choose. The comfort I feel at a table of women does not negate the entertainment of a seat at the bar.

It is good to do the things that we do not usually do. Read the newspaper. Turn your phone off. Go ahead and be late. Stop for a beer.


This morning I went outside to water the flowers and said “C’mon, Goose, we need to hurry up.” Hurry. Towards what? The next task? I stopped. I poured some water on her feet and she laughed. I took a picture of the snapdragons quickly and then I put my phone inside. We sat on the deck. I don’t know for how long.

If I am quiet in the coming weeks, do not be worried. I am going back to school.  I have enrolled in a self-taught, self-guided and intensive course on the Art of Relaxing. Wish me luck.


Let’s Hear it for the Boys!

When I was young I had my boys. In middle school they were a motley bunch of goofy guys that I fancied myself to be in love with intermittently. In high school I had the boys in the drama department. We worked together, we built things and painted things and sat around in the booth in the dark. In college I preferred beer and bong hits to shopping and sorority rushing, so again, I found my boys.

My boys were my buddies, my confidantes, my playmates. I’ve always had only a couple of close girl friends and a gaggle of boys.

When I left the beach to move to Chapel Hill I left behind my last bunch of boys, some of whom had made the shift from Williamsburg college boys to beach boys.

When I met these fools I had no idea I’d grow to love them so dearly.

When I met MQD I was immediately impressed with the strength of the bond between his friends. He and his boys were no joke. He took me home to Charlestown and again I was amazed. The man loves his boys. And he loves me. Some girls fall for a boy with a great rent controlled apartment in the city and they inherit that. Some girls just want to wear his leather jacket.

I married MQD and I got boys. They’re his boys. But they love him and he loves me and any one of them would help me out if I needed it, of this I am certain.

As we all get older these boys… they are collecting these incredible women. If I am lucky our children will grow up with their children. Thank you for sharing your friends with me, Mike. You are an incredibly lucky man to have them on your side. And so am I.

The Charlestown Boys


I take a lot of pictures.

Sometimes I wonder if I take so many pictures because I am afraid that the moment will slip away, that I will forget.  That the day will get lost in the archives of  the “brain movies” (as Em refers to her memories) and I will forget.  So, I take pictures.    To hold on.

This weekend I did not take a single picture.  Even though there were a hundred moments I wanted to hang on to forever.

I watch Emily talk to her friends at school and I look at their faces and I wonder if one of those girls will be there when she has her heart broken.  When she has sleepovers.   When she learns how to drive.  When she graduates from high school. When she gets married, and has babies.  When she laughs. When she is afraid.   When no one else remembers that hilarious day in 1987.  When she sees a remake of a movie that came out 27 years ago.  Because the girl that I sat next to on the first kindergarten has been there for all of those things.  And she’ll be there for so many more.

I ask myself sometimes how long something has to be true before I can just take it on faith.  And now I have an answer.  Thirty years.  That’s how long.

I hugged you at the airport, Amanda, and it never dawned on me to take a picture.  Because I know I will see you again.  I don’t know when.  But I know I will.  Because I always do.  That’s what thirty years of friendship gives you.  Faith.  And you know George Michael says I gotta have it…



The Village

They say it takes a village.  I think it takes only slightly less than a village.  Which is fortunate, since I am not sure where exactly I’d go to find a proper village.

I think raising a kid takes more of a compound.  And several cases of wine.  We went over to the new house again this weekend to take some measurements.  Through the empty house I could hear Em and her long time pal, Kellan,  raising hell.  Eventually we threw them outside.  I could still hear them, chasing each other across the yard.  I stopped and looked out the window and there was my daughter.  Stick raised like a spear in hot pursuit of a boy she has known since she was three months old.

When they were small we lived within walking distance of one another. .9 miles if we walked Bay Drive.

Amy recalls the weeks before Kellan was born, we’d walk.  The dogs on the leashes,  Emily crying in her stroller. Me, crying and mumbling about how I didn’t know  what to do!  Eventually Em stopped shrieking all the time.  And Kellan was a calm sort of fellow.  And we took them for strolls around the neighborhood and we stared at them.  Because that’s what you do.

And then before we knew it they were big enough to haul around behind the bikes.  And we could stop staring at them for a few minutes at a time.  And they’d entertain each other.  They were moderately mobile.  Those were peaceful months.

The following year went by fast.  My “village” moved to Chapel Hill.  I took walks by myself.  I trained for the OBX half marathon and Em and I listened to music as we ran up and down Bay Drive.  Solo.  I’d talk to her when we’d pass Dock Street, the cut-through to Kellan’s house.  “Do you remember where your buddy lived?”

We visited.  We got the requisite “Look at you two on your potty seats” picture and in retrospect it seems we didn’t miss much.  The story told by the pictures hardly registers a lapse.

The Fall of 2009 I moved closer to my village.  I had to go somewhere and Chapel Hill felt like home.  There were trees and Targets and a DSW  (a welcome combination after eight years on the beach with a K-Mart and a hundred Wings beach stores.)  When you are picking up your life and starting over you need something that is familiar.  I needed trees.  And Amy. Chapel Hill gave me both of those and more.  The kids were still too little to register that they had ever been apart.  Em delighted in telling people that she knew Kellan “before he was born.”  And I had a standing invite to dinner.

We kept waiting to see when the evidence of their being opposite genders would appear.  Slowly it reared its head.  Em wanted to play house and “family.”  Kellan wanted to dig in the yard.  He informed me on a few occasions that his “buddies at school” they played games Emily did “not even understand.”  When Kellan told Em he had planned to marry another little girl in his pre-school she told me it was okay.  She’d just be Kellan’s friend for now.  And marry him later “when he was done being married to that other girl.” She is wise beyond her years, that girl.

Em went in to her deeply pink and purple girly phase.  Kellan embraced the dirt, his trucks, and all things LOUD.  But they still entertained each other.  And we got an evening, an afternoon here and there to feel like grown ups.

I tried not to tell Emily that we might be moving in across the street from Kellan.  But she is whip smart.  And I was too excited.  She was over the moon.  Kellan is thrilled to have a sidekick that is available to play at 8 am.  And Amy & I are becoming those parents that talk about the “damn teenagers speeding through the neighborhood” and getting a “Slow: Kids at Play”  sign.

I looked out the window and I couldn’t help but imagine the changes we will see in them both.  Kellan is a Big Brother now.  That rough and tumble boy kissed my stomach this weekend and said “Hello, baby!”  Em has grown out of the 24 hour a day princess phase and seems to be wielding a spear-shaped stick with skill.   Next week they will add neighbors and school friends to the list that describes their relationship.  It should be entertaining to watch it pan out.  We are both prepared for the day they announce that they “hate” one another.  It’s inevitable.

In the meantime they got busted kissing and playing wedding behind the side of the house on Saturday.  And we haven’t even moved in yet.

She claims she was telling him a secret. Perhaps the first of many these two will share.

Letting go and holding on…

I have an unlikely friend. The Universe works in mysterious ways.  When my phone rang a couple of weeks ago and it was the young lady my ex-husband was living with soon after we separated you’d probably not have guessed that I’d have answered.  Or that she’d have been calling to ask for advice.  Or that I’d have poured a glass of wine and sat down on my back porch, giggling like I was talking to a dear girlfriend.  Or that I’d have been so very thrilled to hear the anticipation in her voice as she was preparing to catch up with an old boyfriend.

Then again you’d be just as surprised to know that a few years ago, when I was preparing our divorce papers it was Hillary I called.  To make sure it was a good time to send them. That she’d be around if he needed someone to talk to. Because I hated the idea of him hurting and not talking to anyone about  it.

Sometimes the world brings you the people you need in your life.  And sometimes you seek them out, asking advice from the friends that you know will tell you want to hear.   I knew Hillary would tell me to do what I needed to do, not take any bullshit, rip the band-aid off.  And when she called the other evening, I suspect she knew that I’d tell her to dive in, head first, heart and arms wide open, because what have you got to lose?  If there was ever a time to ask a woman if she thinks it is a good idea to be open to the possibility of Love I’d guess that the month before she gets married is a pretty damn good time.  I think my exact words to her that night were “What did you think I’d say?  Are you fucking kidding,  I love Love!”

So it was with a heavy heart that I read her email last week.  She told me that it was a no-go with the old flame.  I replied that she just has to keep putting herself out there.  And in what I declare a moment of genius told her that “our hearts are like earthworms. We have endless regenerative powers.”  Hillary is a tough cookie.  And when I didn’t hear from her I assumed that she was toughing it out.  Her earthworm heart mending itself in time to be torn in two for perhaps the gazillionth time, but all in all, no worse for the wear.  And then yesterday she posted this….

Dear Kelly Ann,
You never mentioned that once you try and finally let go….what happens when they try to force themselves back into your life? What if my guard is weak just like my heart? Why all these fucking games? Why all the constant tugs on my heart strings?
Sincerely, Hillary  from cantstopthebeattt

And I am at a loss.  I am a Dreamer.  A Believer in Love.  But I am not one to suggest to my friends that they keep putting themselves in the line of fire, earthworm hearts or not.    So I am not sure how to respond.  And when I am not sure of what I think I am prone to question what the asker thinks I am going to say… Did she ask me hoping that I’d tell her to stay true to her heart, to try one more time, to never give up, because after all wasn’t it me that was “in Love with Love” just last week?  Or did she ask me  because she heard the tearful struggles. She saw me crying in the parking lot of the Waffle House where Jer and I would  swap Em for the weekend.  She knew from our talks so long ago that I did leave once, but I never stopped loving.  So maybe she was looking for me to be the Kenny Rogers of relationship advice and tell her to “know when to walk away, know when to run.”

As is usually the case once I talk myself all the way through both possibilities I can see that neither is really right.

I can’t tell you how to walk away.  And I can’t tell you how to hold on and keep trying, in spite of the hurt.  Because I don’t think we every really make that choice.  Hillo, we don’t choose to fall in love.  And we can’t, unfortunately, choose to let it go, either.  I don’t think we ever really walk away, or put up a fence around our hearts, not when you love with your whole heart.  So, then when is it over?  It’s over one day when you wake up and you realize that you’re not crying.  That you fell out of love as wordlessly, as effortlessly and quietly as you fell in.

So, keep treading water if you don’t want to dive in headfirst, little girl.  But I’m afraid you can’t just get out of the pool.  I don’t think girls like us have that as an option.

*A few years ago you put a bunch of pictures of your past in a mirror.  A mirror that had been mine and had hung in my house, with pictures of my past in it for over a decade.  When I moved out I didn’t take it with me.  And it ended up in your hands.  I hope you still have it.  And I hope you keep looking in it.  For a little while longer, anyway.   And then I hope one day you don’t need it anymore.  I hope you get all the answers you need from your past.  And I hope you know how grateful I am for your unlikely friendship.

So long… see ya around…

Ever wonder if it is “normal” or even a good thing that no one ever just drifts away anymore, given the ease with which we all maintain digital connections? I’ve had his phone number on a small piece of paper in my wallet for more than a week now and I can not just pick up the phone and say “I am really sorry to hear about your father.”

Because I’ll hear his voice and feel a familiar pang all the while knowing that in reality I am on the phone with a stranger… He is such a huge part of my heart in a strange way, taught me to love freely without reservation or fear and that became so much of who I am that I almost can’t see him as a real person… He’s a memory to me, that’s perfect and sweet and sad and wonderful. And when I hear from him, I want to reach out, to reach back and it is so hard…. because we don’t really know each other anymore. I don’t really remember anymore… being fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen… I only know that he was there.   And my family was changing, my parents redefining themselves, and I held on to you because I wanted something to be my forever.  I had no idea then that nothing lasts forever.  Not your family, not you, not me, nothing.  Even those that endure, it’s not forever.  They start anew, redefine themselves, grow, evolve and change along with you, if you are lucky.

Sometimes you hear from someone and you think, “Oh, I’d love for you to meet my kids/dog/husband/present life” and have a beer and share a laugh. And sometimes you hear from someone and you think I’d love to pull up beside you in a parking lot, get out of my car, put my arms around your neck, make you sure you still smell exactly the same, confirm that your hands feel exactly the same as they always have when you wipe my tears off my cheek, whisper quietly “hello, I am here if you need me, thank you” and get back in the car and drive away and let it all remain in the past. Where it belongs. Because it was perfect there.

So, b, if you read this… I am sorry about your father.  He was a really stand-up guy.  Made me laugh and not feel awkward, which wasn’t easy to do as the fourteen year old girlfriend. And if I see my teenage self around I’ll have her call you.  Because she’d know what to say.  To you.