Putting aside the few years in my early 30s when I tried to re-create my entire 20s (which was a hell of a lot of fun, until it wasn’t) I am not, I have never been, the girl you call to go out on Saturday night. I’m the girl you call to come fetch you when you wake up in the wrong apartment on Sunday morning missing a shoe and not quite sure how you got there.
When I had my daughter, Emerson, in 2005, my husband, Jonathan, and I settled into a homey routine — a comfortable rotation of sending out the laundry, calling in for dinner, and switching off night time feedings and early morning wake-ups.
Emmy is almost 5 now, so we’re venturing out into the world more and more. (For the record, she has never been in a bar and won’t be until she sneaks into one using her fake ID. I have my standards.) A couple of weeks ago, we took her to see Mary Poppins, her first Broadway show. I am card-carrying-drama-major-musical-theatre-fangirl, so this was a day I had been waiting for. She behaved like a champ, sitting in her seat, asking questions quietly, clapping her little hands.
We went to the show with a large group of people that included my in-from-Atlanta cousin-in-law Eileen (she’s my step-father’s second cousin . . . I think), her kids, Gillian and Rebecca, and many of her NY friends. Eileen and I are close facebook and email pals, but this was the first time my family was meeting hers. The upshot — I knew Eileen but not her friends, Jon and Emmy knew no one.
When the show ended, our group assembled on the sidewalk in front of the theatre. Eileen and her friends were heading downtown to a restaurant for dinner, while Jon and I planned to go back to Brooklyn. We’d been invited to join them for the meal, but had declined, feeling out of practice about dinner with a large group of strangers. We started saying our goodbyes, but when I asked Emmy if she wanted to give Eileen a hug, she gave me a fretful look and declared, most emphatically, “I want to go to dinner!”
Jon and I exchanged one of those married looks that encapsulated the following exchange:
Him: I dunno. I guess she wants to go to dinner.
Me: She doesn’t even know these people.
Him: She’s leading her cousin Rebecca down 42nd street towards the A train.
Me: She has her metrocard.
Him: Now she’s giving directions to that group of tourists.
Me: I’ll go to dinner.
Him: Is it OK if I go home and watch Season 4 of The Wire?
Me: Yeah sure. Just don’t finish the ice cream.
He went to Brooklyn, we went to dinner.
We went to a place called Mappamondo, which is owned by a friend of Eileen’s. Utterly charming, it’s tucked into a small, cozy space on Abingdon Square (this is not a commercial, but go and have the spinach flan). The 20 of us pretty much filled the place, and Emmy dined on specially made french fries, a bowl of pasta, and chocolate gelato while playing with her “cousins” (which in her estimation included not just Eileen’s children but all the kids in our group). She also made what looked to be a soul connection with Eileen’s pal Gianni, the restaurant owner, and his gorgeous wife Karla, who owns a paradisiacal resort in Tulum.
My daughter may wear toddler-sized pants, but she knows how to party.
Taking a lead from my almost-5-year-old, I relaxed, and ate the most incredible Italian food, and laughed and talked, and handed out my business card to a few of Eileen’s funny and good-hearted friends, who are becoming my friends too.
The party broke up at around 9PM (Emmy goes to bed at 8PM, so this is the equivalent of being out until 3AM for grownups). I was able to get her to leave only after she was CERTAIN that everyone was going, and she hugged Karla like it was the end of a movie about foster care.
I hailed a cab (she also raised her hand — she loves to hail a cab) and she snuggled into me in the back seat. She drowsily gave me her review of the show (“I liked when the little bird flew, and the big umbrella, and when she FLYED over the audience.”) She told me that she’s going to visit Becca and Gilly in Atlanta, that she wants a playdate with Karla, that she loves me. She nodded off as we drove through the dark city, heading back to Brooklyn, to her Daddy and her soft bed and her room with the yellow curtains.
It’s moments like these that always catch me up short, that make my throat hurt and my eyes sting. That somehow, between the things we thought we wanted and the things we lost, Jon and I found each other, and made her, just from loving each other. And not only did she get me out of the house on Saturday night, she showed me how much fun there is to be had, out with strangers in a place you’ve never been.