Last night Nathan, Finn and I went to our friend’s New Years Eve party. The night made me realize that I love our old friends. I love them for who they are, who they aren’t, what they say and the jokes they tell. They are wonderful people; I adore them. And I despise them.
The hosts of the soiree are easily the nicest people I know. They are genuine and caring, the kind of people who’d put you up in their home after you lost your house to a lively explosion in your do-it-yourself kitchen meth lab. “The Cop,” also the godfather to our son, is a police officer; a no-nonsense, won’t-take-shit-from-his-own-mother kinda cop who is the epitome of “nice guy” on his off-time. “The Nurse”, his wife, is a neonatal nurse, blond and achingly pretty. Civil service is their thing, I guess. Helping those who need it.
“Mr. Marshall” and “The Teacher” are the immature couple of the group. I don’t mean that to be patronizing, at all; in fact it is their most endearing quality. Marshall has been working the same job since we started college, and still has a few classes to go on his B.A. (as it may forever be), and works for months on growing the slightest dusting of a beard. Teach is a teacher, or was, and now works at a zoo. She is younger than all of us, only twenty-four or so. Both of them are slight physically and have that “all-the-world-is-ahead-of-me” attitude about their lives and careers. They are so optimistic about things that it makes me think that even we still have time until we grow up (but alas, such things have already happened for Nathan and I).
Then there are the supporting players. There are the gloriously thin and blond pair of podiatrists that we always manage to share a nice conversation or two when The Cop and The Nurse have a get-together. We see “V” more often than any of our other “friend of friends.” He is a nice guy, and we really do like him, even though we know little about him, other than his last name is deliriously Russian sounding; Tolstoy, Josefstalinakof, or something else that recalls a highly difficult leap done by an Olympic figure skater. He was in the Air Force, so was Nathan and poof- instant camaraderie.
So, being such wonderful people, anyone should like them. And I do, down to my core. But a tiny part of me cannot stand them just slightly; they are everything I used to be and will never be again and I am jealous. My envy is so verdant, so lush and green it rivals the time my cousin got Teddy Ruxpin for Christmas when she hadn’t even asked for it. It is all me, and not due to any fault of their own, but damn it, I wish I were them. They have nice places to live, have sofas that aren’t covered in spit-up, can go to the movies or have sex whenever they please and have disposable income to burn. Their lives are decidedly un-complicated, have their careers mapped and their wedding china in felt-lined boxes in the basement. They have time to blow dry their hair and can carry on an entire conversation without mentioning poop or sleeping through the night. Their tummies are flat and boobs are wonderfully youthful; the type that have never been encumbered by breast milk. Namely, they don’t have kids.
I suppose the reason this irritates me so is that I feel so flipping guilty about envying them. I love my son, in a way that I never imagined one human being could feel about another. I would jump in front of a bus for him without a sidelong glance; I cannot imagine my life without him and his adorably huge blue eyes. It is just that I miss being able to be so flagrantly self-absorbed, to talk of the latest movies and their merit (or lack thereof) and gab about our upcoming trip to the charming village of Way-Too-Expensive, Ireland. I was never much of a drinker but when I hear them speak of their honeymoon in Napa, I yearn to understand how a particular Cabernet has subtle undertones of hickory or boxwood turtle or whatever… What the fuck- I don’t even like wine!
At dinner, we self-segregated ourselves with “J”, “L” and their son, “Tiny R” who is just a few months older than Finn. While the conversation at the adult table probably dissected the merits of Inglorious Basterds as it always seems to with V at the table, the rest of us chatted lightly about the weights of our children and switching from nursing to formula and then to whole milk. We went on about crawling and sitting up while Tiny R dined on Beechnut corn casserole and Finn spit his apricot fruit medley on my sweater in the most liberating manner. L mentioned that she was thinking about getting one of the helmets for Tiny R when he starts walking. J thought she was nuts. I passed the baby to Nathan so I could eat. L handed her son to J and tucked in to her dinner. Finally, my mothership had landed.
On the way home, Nathan made a point. A good point, maybe. What if they are a little jealous of us? We have a stable marriage, a beautiful, healthy child with boundless amounts of charm, and have been able to take the last nine months off of work with little more than a blip on our spending habits and living style we have been accustom to (well, as much of a style that hasn’t changed since Finn came along). We nap during the day if we are tired and we don’t have to worry about taking time off to go on vacation. Not that I was ever jealous of people with kids before we had decided to try, but the thought helped me sleep at night.
For what it is worth, I did have a fabulous time. The food was delightful, and we are lucky to have wonderful, thoughtful people as friends. Finn dozed in Nathan’s arms for an hour and a half before he woke up at eleven thirty, just in time to celebrate the festivities. Everyone clamored for a turn to bounce him on their knees, enamoured with his boundless energy and cute little belly poking out from the bottom of his shirt. I doubt they wished they were in my position as I wrangled him to bed at one in the morning, but as he grasped my little finger and emitted the tiniest sigh as he teetered on the edge of sleep, I forgot all about my jealousy. Until I woke to a piercing wail two hours later.