Gather Your People

December 1, 2020


Amy is my friend.

I had to interview someone for a personal project today, and Amy brought her kid to my house to play with my kids while I did that.

Already, you can tell Amy is cool.

Already, Amy is a good person.

I asked her last night if my kids could come to her house. She countered with yes, but can my kid and me come to your house instead?

Instantly I had a mild aneurysm.

I’m a single mom and I work full time, out of town. My house is not guest-ready on demand.

Not ever.

But this is where the coolness of Amy deepens and solidifies. This is where you find out that Amy is cooler than cool. Because Amy does not give even one single crap what my house looks like. I can let Amy in my house at 3 in the morning or 3 in the afternoon without even a single moment’s notice, guilt free. Amy doesn’t judge me by what my house looks like. Amy judges me by the fact that I’d open my door to her at 3 in the morning. Or even 3 in the afternoon. I’m a serious hermit. I don’t just answer the door at any time of day for anyone but someone like Amy. If I’m on the compound it’s because I don’t want to see people.

But Amy isn’t people.

Amy is better than people. Amy is my kind of people.

So Amy comes up this morning and I’m like stress cleaning a heinous mess in my laundry room. Like the kind of mess you just don’t let people see. The kind of mess it feels like you’re only supposed to ever let A&E see, and only after you’ve signed a legally binding contract saying that you will do so.

Why anyone would do that is ten thousand light years beyond me, but that’s how bad this mess feels to me, in my guts.

I am not a hoarder.

To be clear.

I am not the one who picks up rocks and shiny objects in parking lots and buries them in the crevices of my vehicle.

My kids are the hoarders.

But it’s developmentally still appropriate so I have to just accept it as one of the delightful natural quirks inherent in the spectral nature of human temperament and personality and lean in.

As they say.

Feel like I’m leaning into a big pile of trash stacked up next to where my bed used to be but where I now just sleep intermittently on a pile of 1970’s Time Magazines but okay, Doc. Lean in I shall.

Anyhow, if you’re keeping score, Amy has already (a) offered to relieve me of my children so that I can go do a grownup thing that I don’t actually need but just want to do, for myself, because it makes me happy, (b) offered to come to my house, to make it easier for me, and is emotionally mature enough to meet my house where it is.

Amy already has like a kajillionteenthousand points. Amy does not have to do anything else, ever, to win the game of “Be An Awesome Human (Home Edition).” Furthermore, Amy would have to do something truly atrocious to lose any of those points. It is not possible for Amy, at this point in the game, to be anything less than one thousand percent awesome.

I’ve failed every math class I’ve ever taken. I’m allowed to make up numbers.

So I happily toddle off to this interview, thinking, “jeez. I’ve really hit the jackpot here. This is really a wonderful feeling, to be able to just go do a thing without having to coordinate and strategize the entire thing. Just one text,” I thought to myself, “and here I am. Doing my thing. And I don’t even have to feel guilty about any of it.”

It was the most phenomenal day. The interview. It was the most phenomenal interview.

Everything was ridiculously good and I actually started to get concerned with how little cognitive energy I was spending worrying about how I was going to get a buildup of things that needed to be delivered to the landfill, ya know, delivered to said landfill. Or to the degree to which my carpet was raw-throat screeching to be vacuumed. Or the laundry. Or the utter, utter shoe minefield that is my entryway.

I actually started thinking, like, “I’m very positive and feeling so upbeat today. I think maybe I should have myself checked for tumors or diseases or something because I’m very, very okay, today.”

And then.

Oh my god, you guys. And then.

I came home.

As I always do I honked and inched my way into my driveway, where my poultry army had assembled in anticipation of my arrival, having heard the particular sound of my particular car coming at a particular speed down my particular road. I am telling you, people, if you’re into dogs get chickens because those things are better at puppy eyes than puppies. You won’t get the loyalty out of a yard dinosaur that you will out of a collie, but they’re very food motivated and entirely too adorable not to train to greet you at the door with treats.

Without having realized at all what you’d done until you’d done it, and now it’s too late and it takes you ten minutes to get a clear path to park in your 18-foot driveway.

So as I’m pulling in there’s a lot going on. I’m preparing my accoutrements in anticipation of my walk inside. I’m turning down volumes and throbbing defroster motors. I’m trying not to hit a turkey with my car at a speed of one mile an hour. And then the garage door opens. And I’m suddenly very aware that things are no longer ordinary.

That first hint of magic.

Like when that first letter shows up for Harry Potter.

I felt that kind of special.

And as the door opens I see everyone crowded into the area where I would normally park my car, but where said household detritus had been piling up instead, because I work more than I’m home, and I’m very television motivated when I’m not working, and it was like another 16 letters just came shooting through my mail slot.

And I could literally feel my brain working through this optical illusion of people in a great empty space big enough for a car to be parked in where there was normally a detritus pile.

Right hand to god, y’all, I felt rust cracking off gears and things inside my head that let me know this was a serious, serious cropping up of real-life magic.

Only the most magically unexpected good surprises take that long to surface into conscious awareness.

I was seeing people in my detritus pile space because there was no more detritus.

If I had another right hand to put to god right now, ya’ll, I would be doing it. I’m in full tent revival mode right now, as I tell you that I felt an intangible but oppressive amount of physical weight leave my body. Straight up and off the shoulders. Like a heavy overcoat just drifting up to heaven.

And then my attentional deficit issue kicked right back into gear and I was violently thrust back into real time, and I was suddenly grappling with competing stimuli shouting for my brain’s sluggish attention.

“Pull in,” Amy and the three littles beckoned from the abrupt vacuousness of my garage bay, while two turkeys and a Pekin held a popup board meeting between me and the yawning expanse of garage door. Probably over whether they should even allow this to happen, and how my parking in the garage going forward would negatively impact their homecoming treat acquisitions.

Eventually, though, Amy emerged from the cool gray abyss of my garage to chase the twits away and I pulled forward, openly weeping, into my garage for the first time since probably late February, when the garage door opener died its tragic and unexpected death.

This wasn’t just a few contractor’s bags, you guys. This was a mountain of cardboard and plastic. There was probably some wood in there, and if there wasn’t, there sure was in the fire pit out back, from when my new furnace was put in and other assorted handyman things had been done concurrently. And all that crap had been hauled away as well.

I exited my car and entered Amy’s outstretched arms in one fluid movement. Like landing in a nest. It was one of those long hugs that ends with laughter. The absolute blue ribbon of hugs. “What did you do,” I asked, hands pressed to cheeks in that involuntary but universal gesture of abject delight.

Before she could even answer me, though, all three kids were through the entry door and shrieking at me to “come inside, come see, come see.”

Eventually the chirping and cackling, the squealing “thank yous” and “you’re welcomes” between Amy and me died down enough that I could make good on my promise to answer their pleas, and inside I went.

And you guys.

This is how you know Amy is one of those amazing people you absolutely cannot live without in your life.

Three days ago I texted Amy and said “I feel like the worst mom ever. I don’t want to do anything and I don’t even want to leave my room.”

And she texted back, “nope. I’ve been there. You’re fine. Everything is fine.” Because Amy is one of those mythical people you can be sloppily honest and authentic with without having to regret it even one little bit afterward.

And I’d honestly forgotten about it until just now, as I write this. I’d certainly forgotten it entirely when I texted last night to ask if I could put my children in her care for a few hours to do something completely unnecessary and selfish and she’d answered “yes” without hesitation or reserve. But Amy knew what I was struggling with, because we’ve talked about it numerous times since spring.

I don’t know if she turned my self-invitation for free childcare at her house into a playdate minus me at mine for this reason, but it kind of seems like maybe she did. Walking in the front door, I had yet another Dr. Gozo moment of perceptual unsteadiness as I took in a sofa not piled with tiny laundry I’d begged to have taken upstairs countless times over the past two weeks and then given up on, because I was too exhausted from life to fight about laundry.

There were no popcorn kernels on the floor in front of the ancient gaming console my kids are lucky to even know exists because I’m a farmer and I don’t know nothing about no XBoxes.

The giant box that my furnace had come in, and my hoarder children had then claimed as Fort Jumanji and established as some kind of headquarters in my very long and narrow living room, rendering the entire middle part of the family area utterly impassable?


Into thin air, you guys.

I know I said I’m not a hoarder but I felt a little bit like a hoarder as they led me room to room showing me all the things they’d put away and straightened up.

I know I talk a lot about how much I hate people. And having to deal with them.

But there are some people I absolutely adore.

There are not a lot of them.

But the ones there are I could not last one day of parenthood without.

And Amy is one of them. I have no idea what kind of Kool Aid Amy served my kids to get them to pick up the things I’d been arguing and shouting and begging and negotiating and bribing to get sort of half picked up for two weeks.

But I’m going to need that recipe.

Because Amy isn’t just cool, and my people, and a gosh darn saint among us. Amy is a freaking sorcerer. Clearly. And I need to learn her ways.

I also need to invent a new phrase to express the endless depth of my gratitude for what she did to my house, and my soul, this afternoon. Thank you is embarrassingly insufficient.

Because even though I said it to her like a kajillionteenthousand times, I don’t think she truly understands how intensely I mean it.

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