"Nobody gets the moose,” I growled, pulling the toddler roughly from a rocking stuffed moose she had commandeered from my daughter.
I snatched the moose and put it up on a table, far away from their reach.
Moments before, this girl had shoved my daughter from atop the moose, knocking my girl's head on the sharp bricks protuding from the nearby fireplace.
I was very angry, and it showed. After removing the moose, I hugged my daughter and checked her head for bleeding while silently condemning the other child who seemed smug.
“They don’t know what they’re doing at this age,” the other mother told me from across the room.
“Like hell they don’t,” I thought bitterly.
I have gone over this old memory so many times that it’s become a very smooth pebble in my pocket. I had enjoyed a wonderful friendship with the other child’s mom, and after the moose incident it began to fall apart.
I have spent too many hours in the intervening years puzzling over WHY
Did this other mother see some out-of-control person in me, losing her temper when children were simply playing and “not knowing what they’re doing?”
That other mother distanced herself from me over the next few weeks, eventually not calling at all anymore. It shouldn’t have been as much of a problem as it was, but I hadn’t gone to the trouble of making any back-up friends when I had kids. She was my main friend. Between her and the other four women in our playgroup, that was it for me.
She had called me the night after I took the moose away from our children.
“Are we OK?” she asked.
I was perplexed. I hadn’t given the incident another thought since my daughter stopped crying, but to her the Moose Incident seemed to be a big deal. Had she heard my evil thoughts about her daughter?
Then over the next few months she stopped communicating at all with me.
WAS IT THE MOOSE? WAS IS THE GODDAMNED MOOSE?
Soon afterwards, there seemed to have been some kind of agreement that I was no longer a part of our playgroup -- they reorganized without me. One of the other women closed a door directly in my face walking into preschool and made no attempt to hide her disdain when in my presence.
That madness was exactly seven years ago. I remember the approach of Easter, I sat in playgrounds by myself, feeling hollowed out by loneliness. I thought I had the best mom-friends a woman could possibly hope for and they all simultaneously dumped me.
It broke my heart. And yes, it allowed for what would eventually become the REAL best mom-friends a woman could hope for. (Shout out to my soul sisters...)
And I have written repeatedly about the playgroup that dumped me, and sat ruminating about it for silly amounts of time. I have spotted one or another woman from that group, particularly the mother of the moose-girl, and I felt like a giant awkward ass, sweating and running away.
It’s this time of year that kicks me most in the gut. And so I vow to be a good friend.
This doesn’t mean I’m never going to rip a moose from underneath another toddler, or that I won’t think evil thoughts about kids who hurt my kids (daily).
It means that I’m going to be about mom-love. I’m going to reach out to the lonely mom in the park and give her the love she needs, immediately and without judgement. Because I have been hollowed out by women who treated me horribly. There is no “crime” that could justify their behavior. I hereby renew my vow to be the one with the casserole, the one with reassurance, love the mom-sisters.
And it is what I teach my daughters now: Be gentle with one another, don’t break hearts, life is brutiful and it’s a rotten thing to cast a friend aside. This painful time of year is my reminder to love the sisters and share the moose.