Monday, August 4, 2014

Parenthood Week 62 - The Party: Part 1

I don't get out much.  

It has been almost two years since I went out and did something social without Diana or Ollie. I was very protective of Diana during her pregnancy and the craziness of Ollie’s first year of life didn’t leave a lot of free time. I was okay with this fact but I knew that I was important that I push myself out of this pattern. So when LaJuanda invited me to come over for a party that would include a performance of her acapella group she sang in, I told her that I would come, but I no idea the struggle that night would bring.  

LaJuanda had invited me to parties earlier but I either declined because Diana was pregnant and I had to take care of her or I’d laugh it off because the performance would be at 9pm and that’s WAY too late for this new parent to be out. The thing is that LaJuanda kept asking me to come and in this way, I realized that it would mean something to LaJuanda and our friendship for me to come.

I met LaJuanda when she was a freshmen her first night on campus. I had graduated at that point but my wife who is two years younger than me was in marching band with her. I remember LaJuanda being timid and displaying a quiet thoughtfulness.  I saw her around that year and we would be friendly with each other but mostly our interactions were limited to an exploding fist bump.

Years later, we ended up both working as assistants at the same school and we agreed to car pool to and from work. Over the twenty-minute drive we bonded over marching band memories, stories about mutual friends and puppies (this was the first year we had Buffy). We became friends over this time and I would regularly invite LaJuanda to social gatherings and to hang out.

There’s many great traits about LaJuanda. She’s smart without being cocky, she’s funny but also sensitive and she is empathetic with a incredible capacity to understand people of all ages.  The most amazing thing about LaJuanda is when she looks at you and smiles; she makes you feel like you belong.

The performance was at 9pm. I wanted to get their early around 8:30, so I would need to leave the house at 8. Ollie goes to bed at 7pm, so I could take a shower around 7:15.  Parents, as you know plans rarely go as hoped. Ollie didn’t get to be until 7:30, then I had to unclog our bathtub which was in really bad shape. By the time all of this was done it was 8:15. Okay, forget the shower.  I threw on a clean Doctor Who t-shirt, combed my hair, washed my face and I was out the door.

The driving went fine. I was in the area around 8:50, but then the parking was killer. Billy Joel was doing a concert near-by which meant is was nigh-impossible to find an open spot. Usually in Chicago, all you have to do is circle the block a couple times and something will open up.  It wasn’t like that this night.

After not finding parking in the immediate area, I worked my way outwards. Every block I went through, every open spot then ended up being a fire hydrant frustrated space. As the minutes passed, I was feeling more and more like a failure. How could I not be able to make this evening work?  By that time, I found a spot, it was 9:30, a half an hour after the performance was scheduled to start. 

By the time I parked, I wanted to go home. How could I show up this late to a performance that was probably already done? None of these people are married or have kids, how could I survive at this party? I walked down the street towards the apartment crossing my arms, holding myself and feeling tears well up as the warm summer evening breeze felt cold and made me shudder.

Standing in front of the apartment building, I could hear the party and I could see the light upstairs.  What was I going to do? Show up after the performance? Apologize awkwardly? I can’t do this. I can’t even make it to the event on time, let alone be social. Maybe the reason I haven’t gone out on my own with friends is because I don’t know how to anymore, maybe I’ve been using Diana and Ollie as an excuse.

So I turned around and headed back to the parking lot. I started formulated an excuse that I would send to LaJuanda. I could blame it on Ollie. Chances are, LaJuanda didn’t even notice that I wasn’t there for the performance.

As I crossed the street to the parking lot LaJuanda texted me. . .   

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