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Betsy Block

Stories without recipes


Recently Andy and I took a major 36-hour vacation, one hour from home. We were beside ourselves with excitement at our good fortune; it's not often we get to spend two nights playing hooky. So it wasn't a week in the Caribbean; it would have to do.

Before we left, I had gotten in touch with an old friend from high school. Okay, a former boyfriend. We hadn't seen each other in about 15 years. It turned out that he and his wife had a summer home near where we would be staying, and that they were going to be there for the weekend.

It's always a little awkward, not to mention embarrassing, when we meet childless friends for dinner, never mind when it's an old boyfriend and his wife. When it comes to dinner, we're pretty much ready to go by 5 - our day starts awfully early, and our eating schedule has adapted accordingly - but since we were on vacation, we decided to be wild and eat when other adults do. Sure, meeting for dinner at 8 would be perfect.

On the way to the restaurant, though, I got a little nervous. Would it be too weird to see this guy? Would we have anything to talk about? And most of all, would I be able to make it to dinnertime? (Only if I could have a nap and a snack.) My old friend and I had taken vastly different paths in life. He had been married for two years, and his new bride's job at the U.N. had the two of them traveling the globe. Meanwhile, I'd been married for a dozen years and had two young kids. I try to make it past the town border at least once a week, if only to go grocery shopping, but it's not a goal I'm always able to meet. Nonetheless, both Andy and I figured it would be fun to hear how the other half lives.

We met for a drink first, then meandered over to the restaurant. After a long wait, during which I was trying not to panic over the ever-later hour, we were finally seated. Okay, I thought, I can do this. This is all right. Things started humming along nicely; we had gotten our wine, our appetizers had arrived, and we were starting to feel like real members of society again, when suddenly my friend turned to me and said, "When we were in Kosovo -- "

I barely heard what came next. "When we were in Kosovo?" Just like that, with no warning, no preamble? How could he?

It's one thing to be mired in the mundane realities of life as a mother of two, but it's quite another to find that your old cohorts are still running wild and free; that for them, dinner is something to be eaten when you feel hungry, and that sleep is what you do when you're tired. It's more than just depressing. It's downright shocking. Once, when Andy was complaining about another sleepless night, his co-worker (and a father of three grown boys) snapped, "Nobody told you to have kids." So true.

Meanwhile, oblivious to the crisis he had awakened in me, my friend and his wife proceeded to regale us with tales not only of Kosovo, but also of Papua New Guinea and Crete. We heard of rebels seizing airports, marauding bands of gun-wielding youth, and weekends spent vacationing in Australia. I looked at Andy across the table and raised my eyebrows. Sure, we could have retaliated with talk of homework, the latest playdate gone awry, and the class bully. Instead, I wanted to hear more about Kosovo. Until it hurt.

A few months after we saw my old pal and his wife, he called. Yes, it had been great to get together, and yes, they'd had a good summer. That wasn't why he was calling, though. He wanted to share some good news: his wife was six months pregnant.

I was thrilled for them. In fact, I couldn't express just how happy I was.