I’m participating in a blog hop today. The subject is “The best advice you ever received from a friend.”
A little background first. I met Carol when our kids were in kindergarten. Her daughter and my son shared the same classroom, and we met on a day when the parents had been assigned to bring in food for some celebration. It must have been for the Chinese New Year, because I brought in wontons. She loved to tell the story of her first impression of me: I showed up with an infant on my back and a platter full of homemade fried wontons that I’d filled with something sweet and sprinkled with powdered sugar. She sized me up as an overachiever, which was so not the case. Here was a woman who had just relocated from New York to Oakland with her husband and her two girls, had a full-time job, and was already involved in the community. I figured she was the overachiever. But somehow, despite the mistaken first impressions, we became good friends.
As my baby grew into a toddler, he seemed to have a sixth sense about people. He liked some of my friends, but shied away from others. He had a special liking for Carol, which made me proud and happy. One time, as we sat in my kitchen chatting, he walked over to where she was sitting and put his hand on her shoulder, as if to say, “She is my friend, too.”
Our friendship grew as we discovered things we had in common: a love of theater, music, food, and fun. We also realized that our mothers had a great deal in common, which gave us plenty of material to bitch about. Carol and I had some great conversations—many, but not all, about our mothers and our kids. We both struggled to be better mothers to our children, and I believe we were successful in our efforts. We confessed our early misgivings about even having kids, since neither one of us felt our mothers had been good role models. But it turned out we found good parental role models in our fathers, who also had a great deal in common.
We never ran out of things to talk about. She had a full-bodied, musical laugh and I always tried to crack her up so I could hear it. I really miss that laugh.
Since Carol worked nearby, she would occasionally invite me to meet her for lunch. She called one morning and suggested meeting up at noon. But I was in the midst of a full-court press effort to get my youngest potty trained. I adhered to the philosophy that demanded a singular focus. No leaving the house, no distractions. All potty talk all the time. Not much fun, but I’d been through it with my older two, and the method worked. We were just getting started when she called.
So I said, “Sorry, I can’t do it. I’m potty training today,” and let out a big sigh. I felt like a prisoner in my own home, shackled to a young boy and his potty chair. The rest of the day loomed in front of me. There were a million things I would rather be doing, but I was determined to get this kid out of diapers. I was pitching the concept of big boy pants with all the enthusiasm I could muster.
And this is when Carol said, “Oh, just throw a diaper on him and come have lunch with me.”
With no further discussion, I took her advice and granted myself (and my son) a reprieve. The two of us did a quick wardrobe change, I wrestled him into his car seat, and we went to meet our friend for lunch.
It’s been over twenty-five years since Carol advised me to let go of my agenda and spend a pleasant hour or so out in the world with her and my young son.
Now that she’s gone, it’s a memory I treasure —and some of the best advice I ever got from a friend.