I had a wonderful experience the other night! My old best friend came for a sleepover!
I first met Joanne when I was six years old and we moved into her neighborhood. She was a mature and world-wise seven year old then, and she introduced me to life in my new town, on my new street. Throughout my childhood, Jo was there to play with, to fight with, to dream with. We learned to ride bikes together, pretending that they were beautiful horses as we sped around the dead end circle where I lived. We made up elaborate games where we were the younger sisters of the Beatles, and we sang and danced and imagined ourselves a magical future.
Joanne was my mentor through adolescence, buying me my first makeup, coaxing me to polish my nails and dreaming and sighing over the older boys who were both alluring and scary as they sauntered through the Junior High School.
Jo moved to the West Coast years ago, and although we have tried to keep in touch through cards and emails and the occasional phone call, we haven’t seen each other in over a decade. When she emailed to say that she was coming East to visit her parents and wanted to get together, I was as excited as any girl planning a play date with her BFF.
At first we couldn’t decide where to meet or what to do, and the emails were flying. Then Jo made an unexpected request. Knowing that I spend Thursday nights with my Mom, she asked, could she come to Reading and spend the night with both of us? “Your Mom was always second in command,” she wrote, “like my second Mother!”
So on Thursday evening, Jo and I met at Mom’s house. My mother is turning 81 years old this month, but if you think that we were there to look after her, you are oh so very wrong. We sat down that night in Mom’s immaculate living room, sipping wine and chatting. Dinner was served on the best china, and was delicious and filling, as always. And we talked and laughed and told stories from our childhood. And we were the kids at the table. Mom was clearly “the Mom”. She served, she coaxed us to have more, she let us help with the dishes. After dessert we sat for a while and talked some more, and then Mom went to bed. “Don’t stay up too late, girls!” was her final comment as she kissed us goodnight.
We did stay up late, at least for middle aged ladies, lying on the beds in what used to be my bed room. We talked about the night before my wedding, when Jo and the other bridesmaids stayed over. We talked about High School dances and old friends. We chatted about our siblings. Our shared stories wove in and out of the years, carrying bits of almost forgotten memories. “Remember the time that we ran through the bees nest?” “Remember the folk singer at the park festival?” “Remember the Battle of the Bands?” The party at Paula’s, the new field house, double sessions, victory marches. It all came back.
And as we wove our tapestry of memories, one thread was there to hold it all together. “My mother told us…..” “Our Dads picked us up…” “Your Mom was with us….”
I realized, as I drove home the next day, that Joanne really did see my parents as part of her upbringing. She truly loved them, and still felt their guiding hands on her life. And I thought about all of the “other Moms and Dads” in my own life. The Rennies, the Potters, Mrs. Smith, the Frasers and Regans. And that realization is a gift to me, as I make my slow journey into the next part of my life.
I hope that one day, when I am in my eighties, one of my kids’ friends will want to come and spend a night at my house, visiting and telling stories. Dylan, or Joe, or Jessica or Beth or any one of the many young people who once thought of me as “other Mom”. Maybe this “Mommy” thing really does last a lifetime!
It certainly has lasted for Mrs. Merullo!