(To read Part 1 of this story, click here.)
I was nervous about moving from St. Louis--nervous about saying goodbye to a city where we'd found a lot of love and hello to a small town where we knew no one. True, we'd kind of gone through this before before when we moved from Maryland to Missouri for Barry's fellowship. But while it had been tough, at first, living so far away from either of our families (mine was in Philly; Barry's was in Florida) we made so many friends that when Rebecca, at age 5 weeks, developed a scary case of RSV, I had to turn down offers to babysit Jacob while we were in the hospital because there were just only so many playdates he could go to during our three-day ordeal at Cardinal-Glennon Children's Hospital.
The thing about me, when I'm feeling nervous, is I start to get desperate. I can't just sit around and ride it out and see what happens--I have to take action. And indeed I tried to solve the not-knowing-a-soul-in-Weston problem before we'd even arrived there.
Surfing the Web in the lobby of a Sleep Inn somewhere near the Kentucky-Tennessee border during our one-way ride across country, I Googled "playgroup organizations in South Florida," found the"The Mom's Club," located one of the Weston branches, and within minutes, applied to be a member. The club leader emailed me back a roster of eight other women who all lived within a few miles of our new, not-yet-arrived-at, home. Yay! I instantly had eight new mommy friends! I'd actually be getting some sleep in the Sleep Inn that night.
A few days later, I went to my first Mom's Club meeting, disoriented toddler and teething baby in tow, with the skin on my finger tips raw from stripping all that packing tape off the moving boxes.
It was, I remember, in a beautiful home in the Tequesta development, hosted by a sweet, blonde woman (dyed, for certain, but meticulously: not a single dark root) with twinkly blue eyes and an adorable baby boy a month or two younger than Rebecca. She was wearing an ironed Oxford-style button down shirt and wrinkle-free linen pants and the kind of birthstone jewelry they sell at Macy's which I think is pretty, but would never wear myself. She, and the four or five other moms in the room, were all as pleasant as can be, but chatting with them was kind of like chatting with someone sitting next to you on the airplane. We just didn't click. No chemistry.
This wasn't their fault. It probably was me. I have a kind of self-effacing sense of humor that they seemed to take literally (and why shouldn't they? They'd just met me). One of the mothers was concerned that her little girl was spitting up too much and I laughed and said, "My kids have such sensitive stomachs that they probably puke up half a gallon a day." I was not, perhaps, making the most ladylike first impression, but the moms' concern to this was to look alarmed--like, call the Child Protective Services alarmed--and ask me whether I'd taken her to see a specialist about that. When you have to explain to someone, "No, see, I was just exaggerating. You know, for rhetorical effect," you know you're not on the same wavelength.
That was around the time that Esther trudged through the door, a baby in full boutique gear balanced on one arm in an infant carrier, a tantruming two-year-old boy being dragged by the other. She had on glasses, non-blowed-out hair, and the exact same Gap tie-front cargo pants I was wearing. She gestured to them and said, "These are great while you're still losing the baby weight, aren't they?"
Which wouldn't seem to be the kind of comment that would make one's heart go pitter-pat, but please keep in mind (a) I had said the same exact thing about those pants to my husband, when he asked me why I wore them almost every day, and (b) did I mention how desperate I was to make new friends? I was certain that this woman was about to become my new BFF.
A few other things scoring in Esther's favor:
- Like me, she was married to a doctor who she'd dated all through medical school, so she'd been through the whole-moving-across-the country, pagers-waking-you-all-night-long type thing
- Like me, part of being married to a doctor in training had required her to spend a few years in St. Louis, which she claimed* she also had loved
- She'd gone to Penn for graduate school (when she mentioned this I was convinced that she was my long-lost twin)
- Like me, she dressed her daughters to the nines but herself in schlumpy post-maternity gear (so indeed we almost looked like long-lost twins. Almost.)
It wasn't long after that that we were playing hookey at Starbucks during Mom's Club meetings--or, if we did attend them, smirking to each other about the other moms, who we decided were just kind of, I don't know...blah. Or as Esther put it, had no pulse. I do remember when she said that--and a few other comments that were harsher than that--thinking to myself, "Hmm. Not sure if they deserve quite that level of snarkiness. I mean, they are nice women who've allowed us to change diapers, nurse our children and spill coffee and formula in their homes."
But the little voice inside me that said, "You know, this Esther chick seems to be kind of bitch. I know you like hanging out with her and all, but are you sure she's BFF material?" was swiftly silenced by the louder voice inside me that said, "A friend! I won't be lonely in Weston! I have a friend!" This voice continued to prevail when bitchiness turned out to be one of Esther's more redeeming qualities. Compared to compulsive lying, manipulation and overall mind-f#%$!)ing.
To be continued...
*Esther's claims would later turn out to not always be true. Or should we say "never true." Actually, "never true" might be more accurate.