Alberta, Alberta, Where You Been So Long?
I alluded to exciting news from my friend - I'm calling her Alberta - in my last post. But you all don't know Alberta yet, so I'm going to introduce her on the way, so you know why I'm so very excited. Let's go back to the first day of grade 9. NO, don't worry, you don't have to relive high school. This is MY grade 9.
Some of you may be aware that I am not the, um, sportiest of people. So discovering that my homeroom for the entire year would be GYM was pretty horrifying, added on to the fact that I knew no one at a school larger than any I had been in before, and I was a really shy kid. Yep, my optimism had been all but snuffed out until I noticed another miserable-looking girl hiding behind her hair near me on the hard locker room benches. Somehow, our matching dismal moods clicked and we started to talk. We bonded fast and stuck together through five years of high school and various cliques, boyfriends, hobbies, ups and downs. We'd ride the streetcar together, eat lunch together, talk for hours, share sleepovers, study together, and, because all those hours weren't enough, we even wrote silly letters and mailed them back and forth, carrying on yet another conversation via Canada Post. She was a sister my own age, a bosom friend, a kindred spirit, and I loved her dearly.
We went to different schools after that, but kept in touch always, getting together over holidays and summers, finding partners that each other liked and who got along themselves. Had Misterpie not meshed with Alberta, it could have been a dealbreaker. As we got older, we still managed for many years to get together with reasonable frequency. We were the kind of old friends who could share a comfortable evening of chatting over tea, Alberta knitting, me stitching something I'd never finish, Misterpie and Albert playing on the computer as often as not. I loved that we could be so relaxed together, an old couple of four.
A few years later, Albert and Alberta got a dog, and with it, a new hobby, or really, a whole new world. They were increasingly busy with obedience classes and more, and with the timetable of keeping good care of their dog, not staying out too long, walking at certain times, and so on, much like the attention any new family addition requires. Their talk turned more and more often to the jargon of things doggy, as well as things teaching-related, as both are teachers. I loved them, so I've tried hard to ask questions, to gain some knowledge of their interests so that we could talk together, not just in the same room.
Still later, New York called, and I answered, moving hundreds of miles away. While I was away, they became more devoted to their doggish pursuits, taking more classes, and making good friends in doggy circles. Indeed, the people they began to spend more and more time with were trainers and fellow canine enthusiasts.
By the time I had returned, Albert and Alberta had decided to move out of the city. I was shocked. Alberta was a city girl like me, without even a driving license, like me, with family downtown, like me. A girl who has shuddered at the thought of suburbs and small towns while we were in high school, though I suppose she had met lots of friends during university who hailed from small western Ontario towns and had warmed somewhat to the idea. And there they were, leaving for a small town north of the city. They wanted space for their dog, proximity to people and courses dog-related, a house that seemed affordable. They would probably even like another dog, and needed space they could fence in. I was crushed, really, because I knew that that distance would become more than geographical. It is too great a barrier to not cause some slight drift, no matter how great the intentions and how strong the love.
As time went on, they became more and more involved with their dog activities and friends, their teacher friends, their families, and rarely ventured into the city any more. I worried that we were indeed drifting apart. We seemed to have less to talk about, less in common, to put less priority on seeing each other often, though I loved them no less.
Along the way, years ago, we had shared the very theoretical idea that it would be nice to have kids about the same time, though when we talked about it in later years, Alberta seemed often to be unsure as to whether they were going to make the leap, spending their days with children as they did already. We didn't talk about it very often, but as time went on, we became ready and had our Pumkinpie, and they still seemed to be on the fence. It was another small difference, another small pulling away, a new world opening up on my side that gave a tiny bit less in common again. On occasion, when we got together, the topic would come up again, and they seemed no closer to being sure. I wondered, and eventually came to the conclusion that they were satisfied with their teaching, their house, their dogs and doggy friends. I decided not to bring it up, and reminded myself of that before we saw them last week, just after New Year's. I didn't want to be the annoying person who asks about those plans, because I love them too much to make them uncomfortable like that.
And then they came to visit. It was, as it usually is, comfortable, though not quite old times, rather a sort of slightly paler approximation of our cozy quartet. Still, I love seeing them, renewing and rebuilding and reminding myself how I adore and value them. We would be going out to lunch, and then to see the new Bond movie, something we've done many times over the years as the new ones come out. Albert is a serious Bond afficianado, Misterpie and Alberta really enjoy them too, and I have joined the Bond-viewing ranks late and by default, but enjoy them as fun action movies. On the way out the door, we were talking, deciding where to go for lunch, when she spit out something I was not expecting at all. "Well, I can't have sushi - I think I'm pregnant!" Turns out she seems to be maybe 5 or 6 weeks in, very early days, but she decided to tell their parents, sister-in-law, and a few close friends. The people she'd tell if something went amiss anyhow.
And I'm so excited! I feel like an auntie-to-be! I'm happy for her that having made the decision, it was easy for her to get pregnant. I am happy that, having chosen to become parents, I know they'll be great ones. I am happy that, swimming in sweet toddler hugs and amazement at my child's progress as I am, I know she will share that same delight and fascination with the magic of her own child's unfolding personality. And yes, I am happy for the selfish thought that it might bring us a bit closer, give us something a little more in common, though I do hope we can still talk about books and work and crafts and other things as we always have, too. I don't wish her world or mine to shrink, but I do love that they may overlap a little more once again.
At the same time, I worry for her a bit. Alberta, you see, is a bit of a nut in some ways. For one thing, she's quite the Type A - intelligent, interested, accomplished, and driven, she applies herself to becoming outstanding at everything she does. This makes for a tricky relationship with parenting, for it's easy to make yourself crazy that way when your subject is something as variable and self-willed as a child. She's had enough experience with kids to know this, I think, and she's not the type to be a competi-mommy (or her awful cousin, the sanctimommy), but even the most relaxed among us can driver ouselves nuts worrying about all the things we "should" and "should not" be doing, let alone someone who strives for excellence as she does.
Not only that, but to say she's slightly medically phobic is to make light of her discomfort somewhat. This is a girl who hates needles and blood tests even more than I do, who is profoundly uncomfy with doctors, who hates to have to discuss any body part by name, and who is convinced that any weird symptom must be the harbinger of cancer. I squirm for her just thinking about all the invasive tests and handling involved in the business of birthing babies.
I am determined, though, to keep my counsel to myself. She is, as much as any of us and maybe even more, bound to be overwhelmed with information, advice, and stories from her parents, in-laws, sister-in-law, and various friends and coworkers. So, even though I am a professional information provider and an inveterate pusher of resource recommendations (just look at my column at mommyblogstoronto - I even do it voluntarily! I'm incurable!), I will step on my own tongue not to be one more obnoxious voice making her wonder what she's gotten herself into. I am putting together a list of the resources I really appreciated or wish I had had, for her to use or not at her leisure, and have told her she is welcome to ask me anything she wants, no matter how personal. But otherwise, I will button my lip, because I love her.
(But - eeeee! I am so excited!)