I figured that if Information couldn't help, maybe the newspaper might be able to. I mean, I knew that I couldn't be the only new mother in Illinois in February of 1999. I couldn't be the only person so desperate for a new-mommy comrade that I trekked through the 15 square blocks of my very small town, subjecting my newborn to sub-zero temperatures in his Evenflo front carrier, all in the name of Finding a Friend.
Lo and Behold, there, in a 2x2 ad on the back of the local sales insert, was the purple and green lifesaver I had been searching for.
Dear readers, the isolation was so intense that I paid a huge portion of my monthly salary to drive 45 minutes away to the nearest Gymboree Play Place. Forget the fact that he was a newborn, incapable of movement or distinguishing his house from an expensive play land. Forget the fact that this was not my neighborhood and I did NOT live in a fancy, newly-built home in one of the most desirable towns in the US. Forget the fact that I was a working mom who just happened to have Wednesdays off, who was walking into a building of stay at home moms. Despite all of that, and much, much more, I still carted my teeny tiny baby boy into a room of 20 other teeny tiny girls and boys.
Unceremoniously, I placed my son on the floor in the circle of blinking, immobile babies and stepped back to find 20 other women, staring back at me. A room full of shell-shocked, lonely new mothers who all managed to hear the cheerful song of Gymbo the Clown.
Thank God for that ridiculous clown.
It was because of Gymboree that I met 4 other women with babies born that winter. 4 other women who were looking for friends. 4 other women who understood what I was going through.
Those 4 ladies became my first playgroup friends and I will be forever grateful for their friendships. The weekly playdates where we finally cleaned our houses and had mac and cheese for the kids and casseroles for ourselves. The women who provided the first friends for my young son who was the only grandchild and only young child on his block. We camped together, blew out birthday candles together, celebrated second pregnancies, family emergencies and difficult births. They were there for me when I needed a tribe and I cannot imagine those early years without them.
Naturally, Life happened. Preschool and job transfers and multiple children made it impossible to continue with our weekly meetings. And though it's 13 years later, and I no longer see those women, some of them are still in contact via Facebook and Christmas letters. It makes me smile to see how time marches on. The children may never remember the impact of those relationships. They probably wouldn't know each other if they met on a blind date (wouldn't that be something?). But the impact of those years and connections will always remain.
Thanks, ladies. You know who you are.
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