There Will Be Time
my oldest daughter, Made leine, was twelve she asked me if
we could go out for coffee, knowing that I regularly did that
with friends. To her this was an adult thing to do, far more
sophisticated than sitting at the kitchen table having milk
and cookies. Sure, I said, and a few days later we were driving
down the road en route to someplace guaranteed to sell both
coffee and milkshakes—but nothing as childish as Friendly’s,
I noticed she had brought along some kind of small notebook.
that?” I asked.
my journal,” she said.
did you bring your journal?” I asked.
case we run out of things to talk about I can look in here
and find something interesting.”
I didn’t laugh, because she was completely serious. Going
out for coffee must have seemed to her like a grown-up thing
to do, but since she was a kid she was used to playing
with friends, not simply sitting across the table from
them, talking. What would we talk about?
Of course what Madeleine didn’t know about going out for coffee
was that it is all anybody seems to have time for anymore.
It’s lunch, or coffee, or breakfast, time slots all book-ended
by other obligations. And it’s lunch, coffee, or breakfast
out because it’s faster to eat in a diner than to make
something up at home. Who is home in the middle of the day
Our social lives really do seem to get measured out in coffee
I remember with great nostalgia the house parties we used
to have with friends who lived about two hours away. We’d
spend weekends, or at least overnights at each other’s houses.
At our house we called the guest bedroom Dan and Vanessa’s
room. At their house I could name all their relatives in the
pictures hanging on the stairwell wall.
We had a loose pattern of sorts, amended when the babies started
coming. First, Vanessa and I would go off for a glass of wine,
giving ourselves time to catch up on news we didn’t want our
husbands hearing. Back at the house, Dan and Joe were doing
whatever it was they did which involved talking about sports
and, since Dan was a writer, about books.
Then it would be time to make dinner. We’d have long, delicious
dinners, sitting around the table, full of opinions about
everything. We would talk until the candles were short, dripping
The next day we’d go swimming, or take a hike. Vanessa and
I might walk over to the nearby farm to buy eggs and butter
if we were at their house, or drive to Crossgates in search
of sales if we were at ours. We’d eat another big dinner and
the next day make the drive home, sated and refreshed by leisure
Friendships need leisure.
But time is always short. Coffee is faster. Even dinner parties,
which I love to give and go to, seem to gobble up the precious
commodity that is mostly filled with work and duty and obligation.
Time itself seems to have shrunken like a woolen sweater that’s
gone through the wash cycle.
Earlier today I got an unexpected phone call from one of my
closest friends. We were roommates during our junior semesters
abroad and saw each other all the time when we both lived
in New York—before marriages and kids and all-consuming careers.
The last time we’d talked was three years ago, over lunch
in Greenwich Village when I happened to be in New York for
She told me she’d be in Saugerties for part of Saturday and
wondered if we could meet. Dinner wouldn’t work because she
had to get back home that night. And my morning and afternoon
were already filled by a semi-annual meeting.
It’s bittersweet—each time we see each other we vow to see
each other more often and instead, more and more time goes
by. We promised we’d try to get together another time. Real
Right after we hung up, Madeleine called. She has her own
apartment now and a busy schedule of school, work and boyfriend.
She was on a break between classes and wanted to know if I
could meet her for lunch.
No, I said, there’s no way. I’m not free until 2:00. By then
she’d be at work, she reminded me. So we each got out our
date books to try to find a day this week we could have lunch.
Madeleine is penciled in for Thursday.
As soon as Madeleine and I hung up, I called my friend back.
I’ll skip the meeting, I told her, thinking but if I’m
not there I’ll get in trouble.
But in trouble with whom? Can’t my time be just a little more
my own than that?
I can’t think about that right now, though. The phone is ringing
again. I’ve got to be somewhere in an hour. We’re out of milk
and jam. I haven’t seen my daughter since she came home from
And I wonder when—if—I’ll ever have another house party.