Thursday, June 9, 2011

See see my playmate, come out & play with me AKA Making new friends

Almost three years ago I moved to a new state. I knew a few people from work (work friends are another story) and that was it.  I had to make new friends.

When you’re a kid, making friends is easy. You walk up to another kid at the park, playground or at recess and ask to play.  You find a common bond over the swings, crayons, bikes or something similar. The scenario isn’t much different as you get older and school remains the common denominator. At college there are so many ways to make friends – you join a sorority (well, I didn’t) and immediately have a ton of sisters with a secret handshake and you’re never alone.  You share a field of study, a lab table or a dorm room. You get really drunk at a frat party.  That immediate intimacy forms the bonds of friendship.

But, as an adult, a working parent – single parent no less – you move to a new area and you must have a plan. I joined. I joined the JCC where my daughter attended preschool. I shopped for synagogues.  I talked to people in check out lines, the library and preschool.  I talked to people in the work cafeteria, work gym and parking lot. I talked to any other adult possible because the thought of spending every night talking only to my 3 year old was going to make my head explode.

Now, I recognize that I’m the sort of person that is reasonably comfortable talking to strangers. Hell, I would talk to a tree if there was a modicum of chance it would talk back.  That said, this wasn’t easy for me. Not always confident, I recognized that as the new kid in town folks may be nice but would they turn into friends?

Some did. Some didn’t. But either way, I met some great people.  One of my first new friends was T (a different one than previously mentioned).  Funny and articulate, our kids were in the same preschool class. I became friends with T and her family – went did dinner and the kids played.  She introduced me to others, took me to High Holiday services, and referred me to a dentist.  She sat with my daughter while I got stitches.  We bitched and whined. We laughed. We became friends.

Play dates were scheduled – sometimes as much for the kids as for the moms.  J, S and I became friends. So lucky to find these gals.  Funny and warm, one new to the area and one is a native. S brought me flowers when I returned from my mother’s funeral and J talked me through a health scare. The intimacy of friendship grew. Throw in K and her family and we have a posse.  Our kids play.  We celebrate holidays, we ring in the new year and we BBQ.  We have even planned a group vacation.

But, plans aside, I learned that you make friends in the most unlikely places. Cut to ballet class – across town from where we lived – Saturday mornings and a group of parents sitting outside a window watching 3-4 year olds attempt grace.  Now, pick the two most different women in that group of parents. Yep, me the loud, sometimes brash zaftig Jewish woman and K, the slender, delicate, soft-spoken Texan.  You couldn’t find two more different women – at least on the surface.  She became my friend. Her husband became my friend. Our daughters are so close they fight like sisters. Her sister and brother in law became my friends.  They have become my “in case of emergency” friends.  She and her husband walked through the entire home buying process with me. They were the first people in my new home as he changed the locks, installed every ceiling fan and all the closet systems. K and I painted my daughter’s bedroom and the three of us re-did the hall bath while the kids ran wild through the house.  They spoiled me on Mother’s Day.  Their daughter makes herself at home in my house. My daughter had her first sleepover at their house. They were the first people I called when my daughter and I were in a horrible car accident. Knowing K and her brother in law would be taking care of my daughter made all the difference. I knew she was not only in their competent hands, but hands that truly cared for her. Friends has become rescuers and rocks – that stability means everything in a world that sometimes feels too big and cold.

I feel so lucky that in just under three years, I’ve made some great friends.  I run into familiar faces at the grocery store. I see friends at restaurants and driving down the street. I was invited to my babysitters high school graduation.  I shared pizza and drinks with my neighbors.  My house often has a pile of bikes in the driveway and kids running and laughing by the pool.  Their parents are just as likely to be kibitzing with me out back, often wine is involved.

They say that friends are the family that you choose.  They also say that family makes a house a home.  So, later this summer, when I celebrate three years here and one year in my new house, I am surrounded by friends. And, it feels like home.

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