This is one of a series of old blog posts I’m re-publishing in honor of my 9/10’s of a decade writing SoCal Mom. This is from February 2005.
Last night, we dined with a couple I had not seen for over five years, formerly close friends who had been there for me through good times and bad. When Gareth and I were married, they not only flew up to Sacramento to attend the wedding, but hosted my bridal shower as well.
I’d been anticipating this reunion since we set it up several weeks ago, as I’ve sorely missed them. But as the day arrived, I felt apprehensive. Why had we drifted so far apart? And what if we no longer had anything in common? Would this be a futile attempt to recapture a friendship that should be left in the past?
That is how I felt after my last couple of meetings with Vicki and Dan, who had committed the crime of becoming successful beyond any of our dreams — and believe me, as college graduates embarking on our first entertainment industry jobs, our dreams were BIG.
Not that I resented their success (although I can be that petty and have felt that way about other people I know). They have worked hard for it and I appreciate that. But because Vicki and Dan and I embarked on careers together, their achievements left me feeling that I had been left behind. And no matter how content I am in my present life, a part of me is pissed off at myself for giving up on the only thing I ever wanted to do professionally — and have never been able to figure out what to replace it with.
And those feelings are magnified at those times when we are struggling with finances — as we always seem to be.
“It’s hard to be friends with people who have a lot more money than you,” said the leader of the writers’ support group I belonged to briefly after I’d quit my full-time convention-planning job to be a stay-at-home mom. I had told them about my last meeting with Vicki and Dan and how out of place I’d felt in the world they now lived in. I was certain they were feeling the same awkwardness with me.
So I didn’t fight it when Vicki and I stopped calling each other set up girls’ nights that were becoming increasingly difficult to hold. We simply lost touch as we both tried to balance our lives. Besides, the last time I’d tried to call her (a year ago, after receiving an announcement that they’d moved to another part of the town they live in), I got a message that their number had been disconnected. I had sent her a little note via snail mail suggesting we get together. I never received a response.
So the only contact we had with one another was the Christmas cards we continued to exchange — at least, during those years I managed to get cards out. Vicki, who always had impeccable manners, never failed to send a little holiday note. This year, her note included the thought that we should get together this year – as well as her email address.
I emailed her, she emailed back. “We’d love to have you over for the evening,” she wrote. “Something casual so the kids can get acquainted and we can catch up.” We settled on Saturday night – “7ish.”
That word “casual” was music to my ears. I repeated it when Gareth asked if he needed to dress up. I told him I was just going to wear a sweater and jeans. He did the same. Megan wanted to wear a skirt, but she selected a long denim one – so I guess we had a theme going.
“Let’s not leave just yet,” I told Gareth at 6:30 last night. “Vicki is always late, so I’d rather not show up at the dot of seven.” I have always been compulsively punctual, and still am, despite the fact that having children around makes it nearly impossible to arrive anywhere on time.
So we waited 10 minutes, which would ensure that we would arrive at their home at the dot of 7:10. I had printed out the directions Vicki had sent me from Mapquest.
However, when we got off the freeway, we discovered that the street we were to turn on was blocked off due to flooding from the rain. So we went the other direction and searched for a back route to get to the street we needed to find in order to get to their home – which we’d never before seen.
We wandered about the town for a good 20 minutes before we finally got on track. “Look at that,” Gareth exclaimed, as we passed by a string of homes that could only be described as mansions. That’s pretty much the kind of neighborhood I expected.
We were finally following the Mapquest directions, but still found ourselves making a lot of wrong turns on the narrow, windy hillside roads – which were unlit, forcing us to stop at each intersection so we could read the street signs. Making out the addresses was even tougher.
Eventually, we found a house that appeared to be the right one. After pulling into the driveway, I wandered back out to the curb to compare the address with the one on the printout. “I’d hate to park in the driveway of a total stranger,” I said. The addresses matched. We rang the bell. It was 7:35.
“Sorry we’re late,” I told them. “The street off the freeway was blocked off from the rain, so we had to find another way up here.”
Vicki laughed. “I told Dan I thought something was wrong, because Donna’s ALWAYS on time.” I was gratified to see that they were also dressed in sweaters and jeans.
Megan’s eyes grew wide that these people who she did not know knew me so well. “I told you we were old friends,” I said to her. I told her how I made Gareth wait 10 minutes, because I knew she would be running late. “And that hasn’t changed,” Dan laughed.
Vicki and Dan’s home is not a mansion – but it’s pretty darned big, with a dramatic entryway. The furniture was elegant yet comfortable – all of which was expected. Vicki had always had excellent taste.
We moseyed over to the enormous gourmet kitchen, where Vicki had already laid out some appetizers. Dan poured the wine. I was nervous, so I proceeded to drink it. Our kids (Megan and their 12-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son) just sort of stared at one another, before Vicki gently sent them upstairs to watch a DVD.
“You look exactly the same,” Dan remarked to me.
“A bit heavier,” I said. I admitted that I had been worried that after all this time, we might not recognize one another and it was a relief to see that was not the case. Hey, the lighting in their home last night was atmospheric – no one’s wrinkles were showing. I approve of that.
“I’m still bald,” Gareth said.
As Vicki and Dan set about cooking dinner, we reminisced – about the garden apartment building we’d all lived in (that was recently razed and replaced with luxury condos), the jobs we had together (I had worked with Vicki and Dan separately) and people we used to know. Dan kept refilling my wine glass, and I happily (stupidly!) sipped away.
And we brought ourselves up to date. I confessed my habit of Google-ing all my old friends to see what they are up to, so I knew that after Dan’s last series went off the air, he’d gone through a period where not much was happening. “We spent four years just writing pilots,” he said. I was pleased to learn that since September, he was back producing a network show – one that I have not yet seen. “Our ratings were really good last night,” he added, “so I think we’ll be renewed for next season.” I made a mental note to set the Tivo for it this week.
We gossiped about the industry. Vicki gave us the inside scoop on some of the films her studio released last year, as well as a couple on the horizon. We talked about Dan’s former agent, who had gone to jail for embezzling from some of her clients (fortunately, Dan was not one of them). We talked about the Oscar nominee I had worked for who had treated me badly (Dan concurred that the guy did not have a very good reputation, which made me feel less guilty for despising him all these years). And Gareth told them about the business he is in, and how he’s been doing.
All in all, it was like old times – familiar and comfortable. Except the only thing we did not discuss is what I’ve been up to. Now, when I emailed them back the first time, I told them about this blog and that everything they needed to know about me was open for the world to see – so it’s possible they read that (although no one mentioned it) and didn’t need to ask me. Or maybe they were being sensitive to the fact that I do feel like a damned failure when I allow myself to think about the success I never attained, so didn’t want to get into it. Or maybe it’s that typical thing about being a stay-at-home mom and no one really cares what it is we do.
Or maybe I still need to do a lot more work on my own feelings of self-esteem.
We left their home promising to do this again, soon – this time at our house (a more intimate setting, I told them). The ball is now in my court. I plan on hitting it.