Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Play: Throwing caution to the wind

Last Friday night I had an adventure.  It involved a very small mini-van, some baby hamburgers, a petite pizza, just one Stella and a platter of shrunken pastries, and it had me clutching my (imaginary) pearls.

It started with an innocent plan to hit the mall with my good friend, owner of the (micro) mini van.  She and  I met about eight years ago when we were both teaching English at the same urban high school.  We've both since moved on from that school but continued to grow our friendship over shared dressing rooms at Ann Taylor Loft and margaritas.  She is someone whom I've always considered to be very much like me: we are both wives and mothers; we share similarly lefty political leanings; we have writerly aspirations; and, when we're together, we both get pretty giddy on just one drink.  On Friday night, though, she demonstrated for me our differences.

As we pulled away from my house, she proposed a change of plans.  Instead of going a few towns away to the mall, we could drive an extra 20 minutes or so and go into Boston for dinner.  It was a beautiful night and this was, of course, a totally reasonable idea.  I knew this, and yet as I smiled and agreed to the new plan, I felt myself silently panicking, clutching at my metaphorical pearls.  Only I don't wear pearls, because that's really not the image I like to portray...despite being exactly the kind of woman who gets a little short of breath when the mileage between my children and me increases (negligibly), when the time away from the family that I've blocked out for myself increases (slightly), when the evening I'd plotted in my mind changes (even for the better).

As she aggressively maneuvered through city traffic, she pointed out apartments she'd lived in, restaurants she'd eaten in, landmarks from her pre-minivan life.  She talked about buying a one-way ticket to Boston and starting out on her own after college, mixing pancake batter in a plastic bag because she didn't own a bowl.  I was in awe.

There was a time when I was spontaneous and free-wheeling.  After growing up in a tiny backwoods town and going to a small private high school filled with a group of teenagers more obedient than any I have since encountered, I went to college determined to be the girl who was up for anything.  By the end of freshman year all I had to show for it was pasty skin, some serious bloat, hefty overdraft fees and a GPA that hovered just above the lower threshold of the university's patience.  And so I grew cautious.

Ultimately, the caution with which I've lived has yielded the things I value most in my life: my children and my marriage.  But on Friday night I realized that it has also permeated my life beyond the point of necessity and that it's not something that I want to pass on to my girls.  While I don't want them to buy a one-way ticket to anywhere, ever, I do want them to understand that a summer night out in the city is a pleasure and not a reason for panic.

So, do stay tuned as I make a plan to work on learning how to sometimes deviate from the plan and thank you, friend, for the lesson.


  1. Next time, we'll plan it! Your post had me choked up, and laughing intermittently. (Me and my plastic bag of pancake batter are truly touched.) Thanks for re-framing what I've come to view as a crazy (and not always so great) time in my life as something more positive. Next trip, less "scrapbooking" on my part. I swear. ;o)

  2. From my vantage point, that time made you an interesting and totally capable woman. Whatever doesn't kill you...