I was waiting for Luau to get home with the girls from dance class. One day a week I get home before they do. It’s an odd feeling – being alone in my own house. For fifteen minutes every seven days I’m not completely certain what to do in the quiet.
As I often do, I wandered into the office and sat down at the desk. I logged onto the computer - ever my trusty anchor. The ringing phone startled me as it broke through the silence.
“Hello, Jessica,” said neighborhoodgirl’smom. It struck me that she sounded very formal. Whenever anyone calls me by my full name I think I must be in trouble. “Luau left me a message saying that he’d like to come over and talk to me, but he didn’t say what it was about.”
I tried to stall. The conversation that we had envisioned was in person, face to face. It was decidedly not supposed to happen on the phone.
“Oh, yes,” I began, trying to sound casual and failing miserably. “We were hoping perhaps we could come over and have a chat. I … um … well … yes … so … I was wondering when you might be available.”
God, I was flailing. Why was I so nervous? I was sure my voice was shaking.
“Well, sure,” she said, “But I’d like to ask what it’s about.”
She was completely friendly, but of course she wanted to know what it was about. I mean, hell – it’s not like we call them regularly. I’d never even been inside their home, nor had I ever invited them into mine. Their daughter may be an infrequent play mate, but that doesn’t exactly make us close. For all she knew I was going to try to sell her a line of skin care products. I suddenly realized I didn’t know her husband’s name. I was beginning to panic.
The silence was getting increasingly uncomfortable, and no doubt for her part, making less and less sense. I decided I had no choice but to explain the reason for the call.
“Well,” I began. “We hoped to talk to you about something that happened when yourdaughter was over here not long ago.”
More silence as I gathered my thoughts. Where to go next?
“I’m not sure that we’ve ever really had a conversation about Brooke, but I was hoping that we could sit down together for a few minutes to talk. I don’t mean to sound evasive, but I guess I really hoped we could chat in person.”
I danced around for a bit longer until she finally asked the one question that I couldn’t dodge. “What exactly happened that prompted this?”
I gave in and relayed what Katie had told me – that while at our house for a play date her daughter had said, “You know how Brooke’s so dumb?” I started spitting out the rehearsed lines that lingered in my head -
“I know she would never mean to be hurtful, but I’m sure you can imagine how difficult that was for Katie to hear and how hard it would have been for all of us had Brooke heard it.”
“As we both know, kids will say things in the heat of the moment that certainly aren’t reflective of who they are.”
“She’s a great kid and I don’t doubt that she meant no harm, but we thought this would be a good opportunity to open up the conversation a bit and hopefully help build a greater understanding.”
I kept at it for a while, afraid to stop talking. Afraid to face her reaction. Afraid of the very real possibility that I’d be staring down a defensive Mama Bear who felt like she was under attack. I was waiting for the inevitable ‘My kid would never say that’.
It didn’t come.
She was warm and open and sincerely apologetic. “I’d like to talk to her and find out what she possibly could have meant to say,” she said. “She’s a good girl and I know she could never have said it maliciously.”
I agreed just a little too heartily.
“But I apologize profusely on her behalf,” she went on. “I can only imagine how hard this must have been. Please know how sorry I am for the pain this has caused your family.”
I nearly dissolved into a puddle. “Oh, Neighborhoodgirl’smom,” I said. “I certainly accept and truly appreciate your apology. I can’t tell you how much. But I hope you know that wasn’t why I was calling. I don’t want to be getting yourdaughter into trouble. I’m just hoping this can create an opportunity for all of us to come together and better understand one another.”
She couldn’t have been more receptive. She couldn’t have been more open and generous and eager to understand. She asked about Brooke’s diagnosis and we talked a bit about what it meant.
“I’d still like to have you or you and Luau come over,” she said. “I’d really like to hear your ideas on how we can talk to all three of our children about this.”
I, um, hmm. Me? Luau? What the heck do we know? For heaven’s sake it took us three e-mails, two phone messages, two outside consultations, and five actual conversations just to figure out how to make THIS phone call!
“Of course,” I said, forcibly silencing the doubt squad in my head. “We’d be delighted.”
We hung up the phone with a promise to solidify plans for the following week. I was shaking. Luau rang just moments later and thought the house was on fire when he heard my voice. “Hon, you OK?” he asked.
“Oh my God, I just had THE CONVERSATION with neighborhoodgirl’smom!”
“Oh no,” he said, obviously on edge. “Did it not go well?”
I narrowly avoided tears as I squeaked out, “No, it was wonderful. And she asked us to come over and talk to them. She wants us to tell her how to talk to ALL OF THEIR KIDS. So now we have to figure out how the hell to do THAT.”
“Well then,” said my dear, indefatigable husband, “that’s exactly what we’ll do.”
To be continued …