To the Other Adults of My Young Life
“Hey, Mom! ” The text pops up on my screen.
“Hey, Other Daughter!”
It’s one of my daughter’s best friends. I’ve been “Mom” for a long time. I guess the “Mom” is a form of respect because I’m of a different generation. But really we’re buddies. When she and my daughter were barely thirteen, we all went away on a weekend to see a Fallout Boy concert together. Of course I did all the adult stuff — the driving, arranging, watching for trouble. But I also screamed along with them listening to Patrick Stump’s big blues voice and asked for help coloring my hair a pastel blue. We talked a lot about nineties grunge and alternative and I felt smug about listening to Chili Peppers with someone who wasn’t old. This past summer she asked “Other Dad” (my husband) to come to the restaurant she worked in to buy him a piece of cheesecake. She was excited about having her first job.
When I was a teenager, I was lucky to have older adult friends in my life who weren’t family members. It gave me the opportunity to see how adults outside my family engaged with the world.
There was M.A. That’s what she called herself — no Mary Alice for her! I first met her because she needed a babysitter for her two busy boys. I loved the job; but I soon found myself visiting just to say “Hi”. She loved cooking and had more spices than I knew existed. There were always meals simmering in the crock pot, making the house smell great. She wasn’t a vegetarian, but she had “Diet for a Small Planet” on her book shelf and lent it to me. It was one of the first times I had thought about food in a political way.
She also taught me the joy of chili powder on popcorn while watching reruns of Faulty Towers. I tried to get her into Twin Peaks, and didn’t really manage. But we both loved discussing feminism in all its varied facets.
She introduced me to her neighbor across the street. He was a clock maker between jobs. He made the old wind up clocks and digital was taking over. He was trying to write a book while he was in between jobs. I’d watch him with all his gears while we listened to jazz. I brought my flute over sometimes to jam. He had a bunch of instruments. He didn’t seem too upset about being out of work. He was good at making do.
One of my best friend’s grandmothers lived with the family. She smoked like a chimney and wasn’t careful with her words — which was a lot of fun. We had racy discussions. I often overdid it. I was excited about having that kind of conversation because I was a bit of a nerd at school. I learned how to make salt cod fish cakes from her and heard about her struggles with her adult children.
While these weren’t the close friendships I had with my peers, they were important because I got to see all the different ways we can live as an adult in the world across our lifespan.
Recently, we’ve had our youngest along with us while visiting friends. He gained an interest in both meditation and air guns from one of them! Our daughter has her own “other mom” who has introduced her to RV living — very different from our life at home.
I’m so blessed to know my kids have their own inter-generational friends. There is so much we all gain from each other when we get out of our peer group boxes.
It’s true what they say — It takes a community to raise a child. Or an adult for that matter.