Friends with Benefits

(Not those kinds of benefits.)

One of my friends came to visit us this weekend. She was actually in town to do us a great favor. She wrote about it here — and yes, I lifted her title. My favorite line, “They ran around like molecules.”

I missed my kids a lot this weekend, even though we were home together. I was up to my elbows in art supplies, old paperback books, photographs, and paper in my home office — also known as the Office of Doom.

But Jen came with her 4-year-old, and entertained my kids. A lot. For the better part of two days. I’m going to have to find her recipes for “chalk” paint, and find another tablecloth my kids can fingerpaint on, and figure out how to glue more tissue paper onto glass jars for vases (I suddenly have a great idea for teachers’ gifts this year!).

The biggest progress Dan and I made was to get stuff out of the house. We donated two bags of toys, and a box of clothes. Plus gave Jen clothes for her daughter. I took two boxes of books and games to Half-Price Books. We recycled a diaper box full of paper. And I reclaimed the arts and crafts drawers for actual arts and crafts supplies, organized into bins and ziploc freezer bags.

But more than that, we renewed ties with friends, and showed our kids how to do the same. I’ve known Jen since college, and we have never lost touch even through a lot of changes.

I am reading The Little Prince to my daughters, and Saturday night, I read them the passage about the fox and its taming. And I told my daughters that what we did, being friends with people by choice, people who technically aren’t part of our immediate family — that’s being tamed. Whenever someone mentions Bedford or Route 22, I am reminded of Jen and her family. When I see Michael’s muddy shoes when I get home tonight, I’ll recall him delightedly splashing through the yard with Aunt Jen (“Den!”). My girls have embraced her daughter as another sister — for better or for worse. And after the kids were in bed, we exchanged recipes and parenting war stories, shared drinks, and tried to see our way through the next 20 years.

I sometimes feel more benefitted than benefitter when it comes to friendships. I listen well, and am always willing to do so over a beer or glass of wine. I give out hugs freely, either virtually or in real life. I pray a lot for my friends. But between a full-time job and three munchkins, time to give seems in short supply.

But you know, I think my friends understand.

At least I hope so!