When we bought our last house, it never occurred to me to ask if there were kids in the neighborhood. I was 7 months pregnant, but it just wasn’t on my radar. I didn’t know how important it would be to have friends for my children, and friends for me, just a few doors down.
We’d been living down the street from each other for almost 18 months when Cabell and I finally met — David was a year old and her daughter was an infant — and we decided to take the kids for walks around the neighborhood.
We started walking twice a week and that turned into running every day, until I got so pregnant with Mary Virginia that I couldn’t run anymore, and so we walked. And then, after Mary Virginia was born, we ran again and then we ran a half marathon. And whenever anyone asked me how I managed to motivate myself to run, I always answered, “I have a friend who motivates me. That’s the only way.”
And of course in the midst of all that walking and running we were also walking side-by-side through the uncertain and joyful years of raising very young children. And amazingly without even realizing it was happening, we went from being neighbors to being walking friends to being very, very, very close friends.
Maybe it’s just me, but finding good friends after college has been hard, and it’s gotten even harder after marriage and since having kids…well, since having kids I have to prepare three hours of age-appropriate snacks and crafts to distract everyone long enough to open the refrigerator without a disruption, so yes, making friends is hard.
In the five years that we lived near each other, our families doubled, and then within weeks of each other, we both bought houses and moved to different parts of town. That she was also moving dulled the sting of leaving the neighborhood, but still. We live fewer than 20 minutes away, but I’m not sure I’ll ever stop missing the proximity we had on Grace St.
When you have a close friend who lives just a few yards away, you are never snowed in, you have a built-in playdate. You always, always have someone to call if you need an emergency babysitter or help in the middle of the night. We watched each other’s animals, borrowed diapers, even walked down the street with a glass of wine. You know, in cases of real emergencies.
A close friend who lives just a few yards away is the closest thing, post-marriage, to having a female roommate. So when you’re not sure how your tried and true little black dress looks on your postpartum body, you can try it on and get an honest opinion.
Eventually I had too many kids to fit in a stroller, so we stopped walking and instead let the kids play on the sidewalk. Our daily routine went like this: early in the day, we would text. Can you play? Yes, can you? Yes, what time? 4? Yes, 4 sounds good.
After all that planning, I was always late. Every single time. Every day at our agreed-upon meeting time, you could find Cabell standing outside waiting for me.
I tried to be more prompt — I tried organizing, getting ready earlier. Eventually we even moved our meeting time back a half an hour, and I was still late. No matter what, every day five minutes after we agreed to meet, I was still inside gathering water bottles and children and texting, “TWO MORE MINUTES!”
I tried everything, but I was still a mess because that’s who I am. And Cabell didn’t care. And that’s what makes a friendship great. That she knows who I am and loves me anyway.
(She also shared her kids’ graham crackers. That doesn’t hurt.)