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July 26, 2011

Chris and I were talking last night. I should say, I was talking, and he was folding laundry. I hate to fold. It hurts my back and somehow I break all of my nails and the skin on my hands gets all chapped, so when I get behind on the laundry, as I often do, Chris does the folding. It’s one of the many things I love about him.

“All I really want,” I said, “Is to live a simple life.”

Chris didn’t say a word, but he never does. Instead, he just looked at me.

I backpedaled.

“I’m not saying I want to life in such a way that I don’t have nice things. I like all the things that make life pleasant. I just want to have a life that’s less . . . complicated.

“I just don’t want to feel I have to make things fancy . . .

“You’re right,” I said.  “I should just shut up. You know if by some miracle my life became uncomplicated, I would get bored and find ways to make things interesting.”

Chris handed me a pile of folded laundry to put away. “Mmh hmm,” he said.

I was reminded of an earlier conversation I had with him, one in which he actually spoke. We were talking, among other things, about the way we make friends as a couple. Typically, I make friends with people first, because it’s easier for me since (1) I am not an actuary and (2) I don’t have a job, so I have the opportunity to meet a lot more people. Initially, I’m the one that everyone likes and Chris is like Teller. But then, once people get to know us, they realize that Chris is much cooler than I am.

This has happened repeatedly, everywhere we have moved, every time we’ve had to make new friends.

In New York, Chris would up developing a friendship with “my” fabulous friend Deb. I had had to work one Saturday morning and Chris and Deb were, I dunno, palling around doing Fabulous Things. I came home and found an empty apartment (this was before everyone had a cell phone). I asked Gene, our doorman, “Have you seen Chris?”

“No” said Gene.

“But he’s supposed to meet me! We’re going out! And he’s not here!”

“Haven’t seen him,” said Gene.

“But you must have! He’s been hanging out with our friend Deb, you know, the fabulous one. The one who looks like a model! How could you miss them?”

“OH!” said Gene. “They went out a couple of hours ago. They’ll be back soon, I’m sure.”

Chris told our doorman later it was nice to know that Gene had his back. I never did figure out a way to tell Deb the story.

In Tokyo, I made a wonderful friend in our apartment building, someone who remains at the top of my “favorite people” list, during a time when the pool of potential friends shrunk from “People whom I like, and who like me,” to “People whom I like, and who like me, and who have babies about the same age as my baby, and who share the same approach to baby-raising as me, and who live in the American/European expatriate community in Tokyo, and who understand that my particular baby is a difficult baby and they aren’t going to judge me, and they will understand that sometimes, I’m not at my best, and forgive me for it, even if we haven’t already been friends for years.” I’m still not sure whether I see pregnancy and baby-rearing as a dress rehearsal for the experience of being a cancer patient, or whether God gave me early motherhood so that, once cancer came along, I could say, “Pshaw, this is nothing.” If anything, being a cancer patient is easier than being a new mother, or being a pregnant mother of a toddler, because when you have cancer, no one expects you to have your shit together.

My friend Laura did not expect me to have my shit together. She made it a point of telling me all the ways it was okay that my shit was patently not together, and then we could move forward and develop a friendship. One of the things I love about Laura was that she genuinely liked my beautiful but very, very cranky baby, and she never, not even once, intimated that my beautiful baby’s legendary crankiness was in any way due to my deficits as a mother.

Georgia, my superbly cranky baby, looked exactly like her father. She did the second she was born, and she still does. It’s one of the things I love the most about her.

Laura noticed it the first time she saw Chris. It was in the lobby of our building in Tokyo’s Roppongi district. Laura was coming home from the grocery store and Chris was coming home from work when she stopped him.

“You must be Georgia’s father,” she exclaimed in her very French way. “You know, Elizabeth is right. Georgia does look exactly like you.”

Chris stared at Laura for a full five seconds.

He drew himself up.

“I have teeth, (pause) and hair!” he snarled and stalked off to the elevator. Laura, she told me later, stood still in shock and got on the next elevator. She replayed the conversation a couple of times. Then it dawned on her, and she did not stop laughing for ten minutes.

“You know,” I said to Chris. “I know you’re much cooler than I am. If you want me to, I will write and print out a certificate that says as much, sign it, date it, and frame it for you to put up in your office.” I said this on the heels of my having done something we were both extremely happy about. Chris had said, “I don’t have to be proud of you. You’re proud enough of yourself for the both of us.”

“A certificate of coolness,” said Chris. “Interesting.”

“I really will, you know. I can make it funny. But I know you’re cooler than me, and always will be.”

“Nah,” said Chris. “You care much more about that kind of stuff than I do.”


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  1. Laura Charron permalink

    Love you all xxx

  2. Anne Slater permalink

    Damn, she took my words… (and some day I’m even going to get to meet you!)

  3. You have, Anne. I remember you from my bright college years. I was the whiney undergrad who didn’t want to do any research.

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