yes, play dates are my main mode of socialization these days, and being a modern age parent, these play dates are usually scheduled around naps, often include a brain stimulating craft of some sort, as well as a healthy, possibly organic, snack, such as carrot sticks and fruitables juice (if you are a parent, you know what this is. nasty shit). these play dates are a far cry from any kind of play date i was taken to as a child.
i can remember the “play dates”, i use the term loosely, of my youth, sitting on my mom’s lap as she and a neighbor lady shot the shit together, their language not out of place at a construction site. i would stare at the blue-grey smoke of my mom’s cigarette as it sat in the ash tray, winding up to the ceiling and pass my fingers through it, changing its course, pinching it. i could smell it on my fingers hours later. they would laugh out coffee breath in between sips without a second thought to me. i could either go outside and play and leave them alone or stay and eves drop. i think i usually did that. how else is one supposed to learn the social graces? health ailments, family dynamics, the latest in one of our schools or classes if they had children of the same age, a mosaic of words.
what made me think of this is that i happened to have such a play date with ruth myself yesterday. as i’ve detailed before, the next door neighbor and i have a sort of food exchange going on. every few days, she will either bring some arabic dish over or i will take some cookies to her. then we sit and do our own bit of shit shooting, which isn’t always the easiest as english is her third language, and the one she speaks worst. but we try. mid-afternoon, i finally worked up the energy to fight ruth into her coat and boots and trudge next door through the snow with our tupperware of cookies. she let us in the side door and immediately started brewing the instant coffee. we exchanged cookie plates and then spent a good thirty minutes muddling through conversation. ruth, no toys in sight, no organic snack, just sat on my lap the entire time, listening, i guess. at one point she hung from the table, nearly spilling our coffees but we grabbed them quick and kept talking. we ignored her, something i rarely do and usually feel guilty about (and i wonder why she is so dependent on me). we talked about the weather, her school, the new baby ( she advised me that i must to get rid of both cat and dog before the new baby arrives), eyebrows, and how short and unpredictable life is. finally, we ran out of coffee, and things to say.
as i walked back across my front yard to my house, i looked at ruth and wondered what type of things she had absorbed from that interaction. i asked her if she liked mariam and she said yes. good enough, i thought. no harm befell her while we were there. she wasn’t miserable, in pain, we weren’t there long enough for her to get hungry or thirsty. plus, there is an invaluable lesson here, i thought to myself, that we stick together, bring neighbors food, reach out to people, drink their instant coffee. the world can get lonely, except for those who know how to strike up a conversation, and even a sort of friendship with anyone around them.
could you buy that on a leap frog website? i don’t think so.