Sophia is asleep in my friend’s basement. Her son is hooked up to Wii and the timer has been set for 30 minutes. She grabs us some coffee, we lean into each other conspiratorially and race to catch up. Ever since she emailed me a shot of her with a strange man, I’ve been dying to hear the news. But it’s impossible to talk on the phone with Sophia around. For as soon as I pick up the phone Sophia does one of the following three things:
1. Whines and pleads for my attention (what my mother used to refer to as being “mommed” as in “stop ‘mom’ing me”)
2. Tries to grab the phone away and have her own conversation (“Hi, Daddy?”)
3. Throws a royal fit for herself (“IT’S NOT YOUR PHONE. IT’S MY PHONE!”)
All of which are really, really annoying for all parties involved. So, as long as Sophia is awake I generally avoid phone conversations. (Truth Be Told: I’ve never really liked the phone anyhow—I need the facial expressions, the body language, the intimacy that comes with being in the room with another person. It is a relief to have an excuse to not be able to talk.)
What’s more, I can remember from my childless days just how frustrating it was to get on the phone with a friend and listen to:
1. Her child’s plays for attention
2. Her child’s attempts to talk into the phone “Say hi….(silence) c’mon, say hi to Aunt Melissa (silence). You wanted to talk to Aunt Melissa, so now say something!” [Friend takes the phone away from his/her child, “NO! I WANT TO TALK TO AUNT MELISSA!” is heard in the background.]
3. Or, my friend as she tried to divide her time on the phone between having a conversation with me and having a conversation with her child. “He really said that to you?!?! Without taking a breath: No, so and so, I told you, PLEASE STOP ANTAGONIZING YOUR BROTHER AND GIVE HIM THE REMOTE!”
So, knowing this, I try not to inflict these fragmented conversations on my friends… But that means that adult conversations are largely restricted to post-bedtime hours or naps. Though I adore my friends, I’m reluctant to spend the only break that I get during the day on the phone. The naps are chock full of activities that can’t be accomplished any other way (work, bills, household chores). Which leaves the evenings, when I feel too limp to accomplish anything.
Fortunately, all my friends have the same damn problem. So (I think) they understand when they don’t hear from me for weeks on end.
At least this one does. The one I’m leaning across the kitchen table from, poised to live vicariously through her dalliance.
She starts to tell me about the mystery man…when I get a rare phone call that I absolutely have to take. It’s news related to a recent tragedy in my life. I make the mistake of saying this. Being a friend, she makes me talk about it before spilling her own beans.
And before you know it, the timer has gone off and I still know nothing.
My friend goes in to check on her son. I hear her pop on the TV and tell him that he can watch one show. She rejoins me at the table and smiles a smug little smile. Which is precisely when my Sophia appears in the doorway.
“Sophie! Did you hear us? Did we wake you?”
“No. I heard a poop.” I sigh. Such is life. I change her. I read Curious George Feeds the Animals. I coax her back to sleep. And by the time this is accomplished and I’ve settled back into my chair, the television show is over and my friend’s sweet little imp is in the kitchen hopping up and down. “MOM!” He says excitedly. “You can buy this sand…and when you put it in water its WET and when you take it out its DRY!”
“Young man,” I tell him, “you have just been taken in my Madison Avenue.” My friend leads him by the hand, back to the television. “Let’s see if there’s anything else on….”
A moment later she appears in the doorframe, jubilant, arms triumphantly raised above her head. “OH, SO AND SO! IT”S YOUR OTHER FAVORITE SHOW! HOW LUCKY ARE WE?!?!” She gives me the thumbs up and races back to the table.
I feel guilty that we’re parking him in front of the virtual babysitter to grab a little us time, but not guilty enough to stop her. Or even to stand on the ceremony of stopping her. So I don’t.
And then I get the full story. Every naughty detail, made more precious by the effort it took to hear it.