The table erupts in laughter. I grip my chair as the giggle fit overwhelms me and David struggles to breathe through his howls. Looking at this dinner party scene, it isn’t obvious the story igniting this reaction has been told many times. I pour myself a second glass of Malbec, and I know. I know this is a special moment. Soak this up. I think. A weekend like this probably won’t happen again.
It’s 2014, and we’re all in our late 20s. Our college friends are gathered in Lake Tahoe for a Friendsgiving weekend. We’re in a happy-confident life chapter. Some of life’s uncertainties checked off: education complete, careers launched, marriages sealed. The only thing on our collective weekend agenda is to laugh, indulge in stories of the past, and have fun before the next big thing.
It won’t be like this forever. I breathe in the black cherry and plum scents in my glass. Soon enough, they’ll start having children. Everything will change.
On that night, I know enough to know children will be a blessing, but a change nonetheless. The ability to spontaneously book an AirBnB, to spend a whole weekend drinking, napping, cooking, with only ourselves to worry about–I know those days are limited.
I know your 20s are not your 30s. Not your 40s, not anything beyond. As the butter melts into my mashed potatoes, I try to be in the moment, to laugh at the familiar stories. But still, I can’t shake that voice, telling me, “it won’t always be this easy. Life will get real.”
Turns out, like everything one is certain of in their 20s: I was right and I was wrong.
True, we never had a weekend like that again. The pregnancy and birth announcements tumbled forward. Jobs grew more complicated. None of us ever slept past 8 am again. But thankfully, I was also wrong.
That wasn’t our final fun trip together. Somehow, now with 10 children between us, we’ve managed several weekends with our families. And while completely different from the carefree 2014 trip, they are rejuvenating in their own way. We’ve hauled pack-n-plays to a rental house on the Sonoma Coast, and toted beach towels and breast pumps to Lake Tahoe. Two years ago, we took a very special trip to the Hawaii. We laughed the entire time.
The time together mirrors this grand adventure in parenting: thrilling highs and frustrating lows. I’ve pinched myself, looking out at the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by babies in the sand, marveling at how we’re all together. And I’ve sobbed at a rental house kitchen table, wondering if sleep training will ever work for us (it never did).
Each time, in the highs and lows, our friends are always there. Handing over a crisp Moscow Mule the moment we arrived, their unspoken understanding that a cocktail is necessary after crawling through hours of Bay Area traffic. When Diego suddenly spiked a fever on our last trip, they tucked warm sandwiches and snacks in our bag, as we raced out the door to drive home.
And, when, this spring, I sat at my kitchen table, took a deep breath and hit send on the dreaded email that began: “Hi family, writing with tough news. I have early breast cancer,” they were there.
They brought dinners to our doorstep, lifted us with phone calls, and carried me through with constant words of encouragement.
They were there.
In this challenging chapter for our family, we didn’t feel alone. We felt surrounded by their love.
It is maddening, but we are also not alone in confronting hardship. This spring, COVID and personal challenges have collided in an immensely difficult year for our friends. It is true, our 30s are far more complicated than our 20s. Life has felt very real, and very difficult. In the past few months, our friends have faced loss, illness, grief and unexpected challenges. And we’ve had to confront it all while staying physically apart.
In normal times, we would comfort and console on a weekend away. We would anticipate time together, to laugh, vent, and escape. Now, like everyone, all we have is Zoom. On many Friday nights, we gather together, the Malbecs and cocktails shared across the screen, instead of across the table. Our faces are all tired, and I want to reach through the computer and hug my friends.
Zoom is not the same. It is so not the same. But it has brought us together, at a time when we’ve needed it most.
I wish I could blink my eye, and find us together around that red Thanksgiving table, the light dancing off the acorn centerpieces. If I could, I would want to tell myself this:
Yes, soak this up. Delight in this moment.
And know, this isn’t the end of joy. There is so much more in the future. Together, you’ll squeeze your toddlers, and fly down a snowy hill. Together, you’ll share stories that will make laugh even harder than this one.
And together, you’ll face some very difficult challenges. You’re right, it will not be the same. But you’ll have each other. And these friendships will carry you through, even when you are apart.
This post was written as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series “Together, Apart”