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Indeed There Will Be Time

 

When 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, of course.

I noticed she had brought along some kind of small notebook.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“It’s my journal,” she said.

“Why did you bring your journal?” I asked.

“In 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 anymore, anyway?

Our social lives really do seem to get measured out in coffee spoons.

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 stubs.

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 and friendship.

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 the day.

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 soon.

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 school.

And I wonder when—if—I’ll ever have another house party.

—Jo Page

Jopage@graceniska.org


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