Me: “Wow, Brick, three goals in one period! That must be some kind of WESAC scoring record. Your son Caesar is some soccer player.”
Brick: “Your boy out there?”
Me: “Yup, old number 87, he’s a sparkplug. He’s left safety defense rover back…”
Brick: “He’s eating grass.”
Me: “At first glance, yes, it appears that way, but he’s just decoying them down to his sideline, and he’ll get up and steal the ball and boom it up to Caesar, you’ll see. Say Brick, since our kids are teammates and we’re neighbors…”
Brick: “You live on Mount Curve?”
Me: “Not exactly, we’re more down the hill and the other side of the park and closer to Hennepin. We looked to buy on the hill but we needed the access to the busy streets… Besides we’re up here all the time, sledding in the winter…”
Brick: “You’re the guy with that rusty old Datsun that parks in front of my house.”
Me: Actually it’s a Nissan, Brick. Anyway, my wife and I were thinking since the boys play on the same team that you and your wife may want to come to a little dinner party we’re throwing, nothing fancy mind you, local caterer…it’s on the 17th …”
Brick: “Pick it up, Caesar…shoot…”
Me: “I know a month is kind of short notice. I’m gonna go check the Gatorade supply now, it must be almost halftime. You can get back with me on that dinner thing… It’s kind of a hectic time for all of us…”
Maybe it wasn’t quite that bad, but I will spare you my high school stories that are worse. My point is that making new friends can be tricky. Dr. Phil would probably call it a leap of intimacy, or a step of trust building, but getting to know another person requires an element of risk. Whether during high school (“I thought you just wanted help you’re your algebra.”), or inviting a work colleague out for a beer and finding out they have more than a passing interest in Scientology, you are taking a chance.
How to make friends is the fodder for self help books, Sunday supplement articles, and really boring masters level theses. For JoAnne and me, many of our close friendships evolved through activities of our children. The babysitting co-op, play group, skating lessons at Parade, or Barton School. Our kids led us to events where we had something in common with other parents. Granted, with some the only other things we shared were opposable thumbs, bilateral symmetry, and living on land. Nonetheless, sports and school gave us a base to work from. In hindsight I realize that having a boy and a girl provided us with many opportunities to get to know some wonderful people.
Even when they were very young, our kids were unerringly accurate at forecasting the parents JoAnne and I would like. The dad might have been almost bald and the mom a corporate lawyer, we often discovered that we were kindred spirits. When the subject of college years came up, we could begin to tell if they had been in SDS or sang tenor in Up With People, whether they had followed the Grateful Dead or had been a “Goldwater Girl”. Still, inviting our children’s classmates’ parents to a no kids dinner party or an R- rated movie can feel like a bait and switch. On occasion I felt more like a stammering teenager than a confident, worldly, erudite, stammering thirty-five year old getting to know the cooler parents at Barton.
As the kids grew and became more independent, JoAnne and I were launched. Fortunately we had gathered enough left-leaning, tree hugging, acoustic music playing, New York Times reading, Chomsky quoting, film loving, Guthrie going, and letter to the editor writing types to last us a Minnesota lifetime. These dear people are still our friends, as loyalty– even to sunshine patriots such as ourselves who flee to California after twenty-five years– is perhaps their paramount virtue.
Making friends without our children as entrée took an unexpected turn when JoAnne’s mother moved to a nearby, medium-sized (140 apartment) senior residence. Since then we have met many of her neighbors and their families. Their children are about our age, and I see budding friendships. Thanks, Mom.
Tom H. Cook is a local writer on a long leash. The scariest trick or treaters he saw last month were dressed as Karl Rove and Dick Cheney