Friday night I was part of a surprise. It's been in the works for a few weeks and I have been absolutely itchin' to write about it here, but for fear that those being surprised might decide to actually pop in and read (MURIEL) I didn't dare say anything even hinting at it.
The surprise was part of a birthday bash weekend. The Fletchers were coming to New York. Joey (sorry, is it just Joe now?) had arranged to bring his nearest and dearest to New York for a whirlwind weekend of Wicked and whatever to celebrate his 50th birthday. Erin, Joey's sister, thought it would be a terrific surprise for him and their mother (who also just had a birthday) if some of their old neighbors who still live in New York could just 'happen' to be at the hotel when they arrived. I got Erin's email asking if I would be around and thought, Just TRY to keep me away! So tonight I was hanging out in a New York City hotel lobby waiting for someone to tell me not to loiter, reading a collection of Poe, waiting for the big arrival with a cell phone and camera in my lap. Secretive text messages were being sent "we're waiting for the luggage" - "look for Diane and Mary in the lobby"... I was ready with the camera every time the lobby doors opened.
This was an event screaming "take a Xanax", but I stuck it out without chemical assistance - 'cause I'm tough like that. (Stop laughing!) Truly, this is the type of thing that induces my party-phobia. But I managed to hold it together, and of course, once they arrived and the 'surprise' happened, I was fine.
It was like a convention had just arrived in town. There were 15 in the Fletcher party alone, add me and three of the Flynn girls - the Flynns lived on the opposite side of the Fletchers when we were kids - as well as two of their daughters . . . it was a crowd. The amazing thing is that while I saw Erin just a couple of years ago, and Muriel about 15 years ago, I haven't seen the others in over 30 years. How this is possible when I'm barely 30 myself I cannot explain. And for everyone who is trying to do the math on my age: STOP IT RIGHT NOW. Just roll with me, will ya? Thanks.
While seeing these people again was amazing, and extremely comfortable - it's hard to feel uncomfortable with the Fletchers - there were also some difficult moments. Not unexpected, but still difficult. I knew these things would come up even in the short couple of hours we were all chatting, but still as I much as I knew they would come up and I had prepared for it, old resentments bubble up.
Not resentments towards these people who I grew up with, resentments about the lies I grew up with. Of course I saw it coming. These were the kids who my parents, my mother in particular, would have wanted and they in turn had nothing but good to say about my parents. In fact they were saying how, to them, my mother was the one they would 'run away to' when things were bad at home. That my house was the 'safe, quiet place'. My resentment is about wishing that what was true for them had been true for me. Because I always knew how things looked from the outside, and I knew how my parents would have preferred any one of those kids to me; but I knew that none of them knew that. My parents, and their secrets and lies, had so many people convinced that what they saw was what was real. Neighbors, family, everyone bought it.
Needless to say, all those lies, all those cover-ups, are the reason for my belief in candor.
So it was a little tough hearing how 'we' were viewed, even though I knew already. Confirmation is sometimes tough to hear.
What was funny though was the universal agreement that I was meant to be in New York "we always knew [it's where you belonged] from when you were about 4". And that, of course, is true. It was no secret - ever - that I did not fit into that life out in the 'burbs. In this case confirmation was simply amusing, and a little gratifying.
It's amazing how many emotions you can run through in a two hour period. But when I left them tonight it felt like they all still lived 'next-door' and I was going home knowing that I'd see them tomorrow (which I will). This however was not the same feeling I'd have as a child; when it was time to go home on a summer's night after dark, usually long before anyone else. The difference being going home now is not a bad thing. Going home is going to MY home. There is no fear of familial violence. No wondering if anyone is going to be drunk or crazy. My home now is a truly safe and quiet place. A place where there are no lies and there is peace.
Tomorrow I'm meeting 'the neighbors' for dinner and Wicked. How f-ing sweet is THAT? Pretty damned sweet, I'd say. Of course there will be more here about it. I hope you'll come back for the updates!
Good neighbors are wonderful. Good neighbors who stay friends more than 3 decades after they move away is miraculous. But having them only blocks away, even for a weekend, makes my safe and happy home even better.