On Sunday, a friend of mine, or a woman I used to know, stopped by my house. We are around the same age, and we briefly attended the same college. She found me on the Internet, and said she would be in the area. I felt obligated to invite her - I'm not sure why I felt obligated since I never
a) really knew her well and
b) never really liked her all that much.
Anyway, let's call her Agatha since that name suits her. Agatha is unmarried, child-free (this is my understanding of the new politically correct term for the sane), and has become something of a self help group junky. I sort of knew this from her holiday cards, but when she was there, in the flesh, it occurred to me that Agatha and I had about as much in common as Iceland and Somalia. She sat on my couch while three cats dozed in chairs and our gassy German shepherd wagged her tail. She was gassy because there is a bog near our house with these wonderfully graceful geese and Mazy had dined on goose poop during her previous night's walk. You can imagine the fragrance. (I did put the dog in the laundry room. Hey, I've got some manners left).
Agatha wanted to talk.
My husband works all day Sunday and we had two kids in the basement who were there because of serious trouble at home, plus my own three kids, and a month long houseguest from Malaysia. I put coffee on and tried to listen to Agatha's long, dusty stories about restaurants she had gone to in Italy, Germany and France. It seemed all the art and attractions in Europe had been replaced by restaurants.
"It's difficult to talk in this house," she said with sort of an edge.
I nodded. "There are kind of a lot of us here today."
"I could never do this," she said, "it's crazy with the phone and all these kids. Have you thought about why your life has gotten this way?"
I could feel the presence of invisible self help people gathering around Agatha, ready to assess my life.
"I guess choices," I said, pointedly glancing at the microwave clock. "Would you like any more coffee?"
HINT, HINT, HINT!!!!
"Love some," she said.
So I braced myself and put more coffee on.
Agatha was sitting in the living room when Philip walked past. "Hey, dude," he said to Agatha. The look on her face made her visit bearable.
"That's your son?"
"One of them."
"You heard him call me dude?"
"That's how they say hello."
"When I was a teenager, I never would have addressed ANY of my parents' friends that way. Never."
"Huh." But I said this particular "huh" in such a way that it could easily have been confused with a swear word.
Agatha looked at his snake bites, at his sagging pants, at the casual way he came over and put his arm around me. "Canya set me up with some juice, Mom?"
She watched him in the same manner I imagine Margaret Mead once watched the Samoans.
"Well," she said finally.
We said a stiff goodbye at the door without any promise of seeing one another again. I think Agatha had had enough of me for a life time.
"God, who was that angry lady?" my oldest guy asked. (He hadn't even give her a "hey dude").
"I went to school with her once. We used to be a little friendly. Kind of friends."
"With her? And you say we make bad choices in our friends."
"I don't think she'll be back too soon," I assured him. "This is all too messy for her."
"I thought the house looked pretty good," he said.
"I don't mean that..." then I saw the look on his face, and I knew he had understood what I meant. He had understood exactly. How could he not? He was part of our shared mess.
But I mean, really, what's not to love when you see this at the breakfast table? (Even if breakfast is at 11:30?)---