When I was a teen my mother joined the committee to help plan the only high school reunion our school had ever had to date. Instead of planning for one graduation class it was an event open to anyone who had graduated before 1980 or something like that. It was fun for her to do something for herself, a short break from her hours of slaving away after us. It was even rejuvenating. She came home with stories of people she’d met at the meetings whom she hadn’t seen since she was in high school. She came home remembering stories from her youth.
As luck would have it, one of the women with whom she worked the most on the planning meetings had a daughter in several of my English-language classes. Of all the people whose mothers were friends with my mother, I was most confused with this particular pairing. I felt surprised, horrified, awkward, and honestly I was so confused I didn’t know how to feel. How could these two women be friends when they were raising their children so differently? Since there was so very clearly a chasm between myself and the other daughter –we could not have been more different and while I thought at the time she was also incredibly mean, I can’t, now, remember a single thing she ever said or did to me– shouldn’t there also have been irrevocably a line (at the very least) between them? I was stymied, but to be the grown up in the situation I kept my feelings about my mother’s friend’s daughter to myself.
Now I am a mother, and my son’s class will remain the same twenty students for the next six years or so. I can honestly say that I consider every single one of the parents in the class to be my friend; even when I see the children do really crazy things, even when the children do mean things, even when the children do mean things to my son, I am still friends with the parents.
And I finally understand what it is to be the grown up: telling my mother what the other girl was really like wouldn’t have made a difference in them being casual friends anyway. It was never about the two of us, and they would have had the same friendship if neither of us had ever been born.