Ode to the Joes

Tuesday, April 20, 2021
Any mom will tell you that it’s not easy to make ‘mom friends.’ There are memes and jokes all over the internet about how hard it is for moms to accept one another and how difficult it is to make friends with other women at playgrounds and playdates. I can attest to this on so many levels, wondering why, as an adult, I often feel like I don't fit in, or that the cattiness of high school still exists among grown women (and I’m not pointing fingers, every woman out there knows that this is true). But I’m happy to say that I did make friends when my son first started kindergarten. But friendship comes in many forms, and sometimes friendship appears when you least expect it.


They say that expectation is the root of all heartache, and I learned this very quickly when I became a mom. I had an idea in my head of what it would be like (as many of us do) and I learned right away that it wasn't at all what I expected (as pretty much all of us do). I thought it would be easy to make friends with other moms. I tried joining mom groups and exchanging phone numbers with moms on playgrounds. I even tried reaching out to former colleagues to make dinner dates or meet-ups, but nothing ever quite worked out. Everyone seemed to be so busy, and they didn't have time for (or need) new mom friends. 


Since my son didn’t ride the bus, I had to pick him up from school every day, and standing on the pick-up line outside the building, I thought that would be a good way to meet other moms. And I did wind up making friends on the pick-up line, because there were familiar faces I saw on a daily basis for several consecutive years. Maybe they weren’t the kind of friends that you went out to dinner with or called on the phone, but they were friends just the same. There was Mary, who had four grandchildren and was always smiling. She loved dogs and often asked about our puppy. And Barbara, who would arrive with her toddler granddaughter in tow (like Mary, she was never without a smile). Then there was Joe. Joe picked his grandson up every day. He carried a flip phone that would chime to remind him to take his medicine. He had heart issues but was 'feeling pretty good,' he would say. He liked gardening and taught me how to cut a garden hose to make it look like a snake ('put that in the garden and it will scare off the rabbits, you know'). Joe kept busy, working as a driver for the car dealership part-time. He would sit by the playground with us sometimes while his grandson would play. The year we lost my nephew to brain cancer, he told me about a son he had who died in his 20’s, also cancer, and it was a terrible thing. 


Another friend I enjoyed chatting with was Josephine (we called her Jo, too) and she would pick up her grandkids and let them play with us on the playground after school. She often brought along her dog Bella, who wore fabulous little outfits and sure did love her mama. We spent many days chatting on that playground, and trying to get her grandkids to listen to her (she loved them dearly- they just never wanted to leave the playground when it was time to go! We concocted strategies to trick them into leaving). We even became friends on Facebook.

So, you see, friends come in all forms. I never expected that the people I would relate to most during those years would be the grandparents, but that's how it turned out. I am grateful for their willingness to chat, their friendliness and their company. I think those years would have been very lonely, standing on that line and at that playground, without having them to talk to.

The years went by quickly and procedures changed as my son progressed to new grade levels. I lost touch with my pick-up line buddies, and sadly, when we moved on to the upper grades, the playground was often empty after school (but that's a subject for another Momma Musings, for sure). We spent many quiet afternoons in the beautiful sunshine, but it was a little sad that no one else was there to join us anymore. 


One day I was substitute teaching in the school district and I saw Jo's grandson. I asked him joyfully, "So how's grandma doing?" To my utter shock, he lowered his head and told me she had passed away. I  was completely stunned. Even though we didn't know each other well, she was always so funny and so full of life, and I loved talking to her. I will miss her and her little Bella. About a year later, I had heard through the grapevine that Grandpa Joe was also not doing well, and eventually someone forwarded me his obituary.  It was heartbreaking to see his face on the page like that, and I felt bad that I never got to say goodbye. I'll forever be grateful for his friendly nature during those lonely days, and all of his great gardening tips.

So this one is dedicated to "the Joes," the casual friends I made so unexpectedly. It's also a reminder that there are all kinds of friends in this world, and kindness goes a long way. Don't be afraid to talk to those people who stand next to you in line. Life is so precious and short, and it doesn't take much to make a lasting impression. Rest in peace, my two Joes! You made an impression on me. 


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