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Lydia had always been the person you heard about long before you met her. In glowing terms. To the point of being sort of the Cult of Lydia. Other moms would say, “Oh, Lydia Coupon is in charge of that. Call her. She’s fabulous.” Or her name would be on all the fun kid events at school or at church, and they’d all go off so perfectly and people would rave, “Lydia just does such amazing work doesn’t she?” and by then she was Too Perfect Mommy. Add in the two adorable and well-behaved kids, then the first-rumor-then-confirmed-fact that she carried a third with a broken ankle and no drugs and still did it all, and c’mon -- who could like her after that if you didn’t already know her? It was simple movie physics here. Clearly, she was Glinda the Good Witch of the North, all sparkle-y and wish-grant-y and with the adoration of all those tiny people. Which made me…the smooshed one under the house with the coveted shoes.
It makes me sad to admit it now, because now I’ll always wonder how much time Lydia and I spent being non-friends because we had the wrong ideas about each other. At the time, she just wasn’t “my kind” of person. Primarily because I’m kind of a bitch all the time and I think, “better to just be a bitch and let them be right about me, than to open up and have them not like me anyway.” Turns out, I just needed someone to tell me to go Suck It. And call me Fancy. And then tell me her life is just as much of a disaster as mine.
There was a moment of silence in our conversation in the parking lot.
“So how are your big kids doing?” asked Lydia, “McGee and Lefty?”
“They’re fine…” I answered, wondering if I would do it again and start spewing secrets I really needed to keep to myself.
“Except that McGee is ten and she already hates me. How can someone who’s that young say things that are so pointed and hurtful? It’s like she knows. What can I say to my mom to make her want to put her head in a noose? Like I haven’t had moments where I thought about running away from them? I mean come on – I’m divorced. I share custody. It wouldn’t be that hard and then I would be free from this bullshit. But I don’t even care. I. Don’t. Even. Care. Anymore.”
Long silent pause. Crap. I should have kept my mouth shut.
“Lydia, you need to understand that I don’t do this. I don’t cry. I don’t freak out. I don’t open up about my real life to strangers or even to my friends. I am a person who does not do this. I keep up my front and I am fine. I should go…”
“Oh I know that about you already. Anyone who meets you for five seconds can tell you’re a composed sort of person. But it’s also sort of funny that Miss-Cement-Panties-I-Don’t-Even-Care is all crying and falling apart because your tweenage daughter hurt your feelings. You obviously care. How is that bad? I know your older kids and they’re awesome. Sorry Fancy, you’re a good mom. Suck on that awhile.”
I may have been snuffling and unable to answer.
Lydia continued. “You know, it’s not just you. None of us had the slightest idea what we were getting into. Anyone who says they haven’t had a moment like we’re having right now is just trying to make you feel bad.”
I had to be sure I understood her. “So you’re saying you think these thoughts too? The bad ones?”
“Oh hell yes. But I’m even worse than you because now I’m wrecking my sister in addition to my own kids. So I am a waaayyy bigger piece of crap. They’d be better off with anyone else.” She sort of choke-cried the last sentence.
“Are you kidding me? You’re Volunteers-A-Lot-Mommy. Your daughter is blonde perfection. Are you telling me that’s all bullshit?”
She was still crying as she said: “Yes. I just wish someone had told me what this was going to be like. I can’t handle it.”
I smiled and said: “You should have read ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting To Suck Balls at Parenting’.”
She smiled back. “I know! A real book to prepare people for parenting real children wouldn’t even have chapters. It would have rants. And they would be called things like: ‘I Don’t Fucking Care Anymore I Just Want to Get Some Sleep’ or ‘You’re Ten. So Stop Talking About How Cruel The World Is And How I’m A Bitch, You Don’t Know Shit.’
I laughed in spite of myself and suggested: “I Don’t Want to Smell or Touch or Wipe Anyone Else’s Ass Ever Again.”
And we started laughing and until we realized we’d been there for a ridiculously long time. We parted with a small degree of awkwardness. Should we hug? [Editor's Note: No. -Kate] What’s the right protocol for walking through a nervous breakdown with a stranger? We just waved and drove off in different directions.
(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011
Part 4 concludes the story tomorrow...
Part 4 concludes the story tomorrow...