N³ + 2T = ME² away

I just came back from “an afternoon with the girls” and, as usual, I have a lovely feeling that all is right with the world. When I say “the girls” here, I don’’t mean what I usually do -– namely my daughters. I mean two female friends who have become an important part of my life and my sanity. We have been getting together regularly -– usually with the horde of kids in tow -– for about two and a half years now. It is pretty much always the same thing: We eat, we drink, we talk, we laugh, and we go home. But we go home somehow more prepared to take on the coming week of work and family and whatever life is planning to throw our way.

It started in the late spring of 2012 with a music competition that my younger daughter took part in. Her piano teacher asked me if I could take another one of his students and her mother along with me when I went there, because this mother was 15 months pregnant and didn’’t want to drive. No problem, I said, and was promptly introduced to . . . N³ (as I am going to call her from now on: N³, as in “N cubed”, as in “Cube N”, because . . .). She was originally from Cuba but had married a man from this country and moved here about 13 years earlier. After a decade or so in the big city, they relocated to an old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere -– i.e. my neighborhood. On our drive to the music competition we found out that we had a thousand things to say to each other and a friendship was born.

Fast-forward a few months to the early fall of 2012. The postman had just delivered my absentee ballot for the presidential election and I needed to find another American citizen to witness and sign it. The shocking realization hit me that I had no American friends here. (Over the years I had formed some friendships with Americans, but they all ended up taking off on me for other places, leaving me behind, and so I had become a bit gun-shy when it came to befriending more of them.) My husband then suggested I talk to my daughter’’s homeroom teacher who was married to an American, so I did. The teacher said it would be absolutely no problem and gave me his wife’’s phone number. I called her . . . 2T (as I am going to refer to her from now on: 2T as in T+T, as in that is as far as I am going to go). I explained the situation to her. It turned out she also had an absentee ballot to fill out. We arranged for her to come over to my house for some mutual witnessing and signing. “”Is it okay if I bring my son with me?”” she asked. Of course it was.

I hung up the phone and it occurred to me that N³ – who had given birth in the meantime – had a son about the same age. I called her and asked her if she wanted to come too.

On the day of our meeting, 2T arrived first. I had known that she was an African-American, but to be honest, I was still a little worried that she might be a Republican anyway. Within the first 5 minutes, I blurted out ““I’’m sorry to be so blunt about this, but you are voting for Obama, aren’’t you?”” We both sighed with relief and then laughed. We started to really talk. She told me how she had been born in the Congo and then adopted by relatives in the States at the age of six. Later she had met and married a man from this country . . . and now she was here. For the next hour, till N³ arrived, we found out that we had a thousand things to say to each other and a friendship was born.

The doorbell rang. And then we were three. Introductions were made. 2T and N³ bonded almost immediately over their babies. A friendship was born. We ended the afternoon with all three of us saying ““Let’’s do this again.”” And we did, many many times.

One time sticks in my memory. We were sitting on the floor of my living room, toys strewn all around us, toddlers waddling here and there, dogs circling around in the mix, the music of our older kids blaring upstairs . . . We started talking about how it was to immigrate to a new country, basically because of a man. Everyone you met was already a friend of his. You were introduced into his family, his circle of friends – an established community. And you had to make your way into his world. A dependency existed and it was hard to be your own woman, your own self.

Everything happening around us at that moment was our responsibility and demanded our attention, but, for a split second, it was all secondary. We met one another’s eyes and one of us -– I can’’t remember who -– said with a smile: “”Now I have my own friends!””

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