Friends. Friends. Friends. When you’ve got three kids from dawn ‘til dusk, who needs them?
Me. I need them.
Because, really… when you add up all the stuff that my family and I have been dealing with over the last few months – hell, that I’ve been dealing with over the last few months – sometimes, you realise you just need a good dose of your mates.
But where are they all?
Well, I’m putting myself out there! Over the last few weeks I’ve been making huge attempts to create social and support networks of my own here in the US that I’m figuring – once all this shock subsides – will make this move a whole lot easier.
After all, who doesn’t want a wine buddy in their lives?
I have always felt very lucky to carry with me friendships that represent my life’s journey: from school friends, to uni friends, to friends from every job I’ve ever had. Friends from netball, friends from Music and the City, and friends from every corner of the world in which I’ve lived. You may have read the love letter I wrote to my gorgeous mothers’ group back in Melbourne. If you did, you’ll know just how much my relationships with others mean to me. Support networks are my everything.
Back in December, I wrote home (to you, dear blog reader) that I’d finally made a friend here in Palo Alto. Well, that friendship has been a saving grace for my life here, nothing less. This wonderful person provides me with day-to-day emotional and practical support (hopefully she feels that goes both ways), and she’s mercifully of the same mindset as me and going through an almost identical crazy journey with her own family. Even though we only met a couple of months ago, it feels like one of those wise, old friendships that one usually only establishes after a number of years and a number of crazy life happenings. I frequently find myself saying to Cam that I feel so grateful and lucky to have met her! Not to mention the added bonus that our daughters are thick as thieves and get along super well, albeit noisily. I swear they’re the noisiest kids in the playground.
Anyway, perhaps to give myself some friendship insurance in the event she takes flight*, I decided I needed to move boldy: smile, open the door to my heart and… well, search for them.
Yes. I decided I needed more friends.
And so, one night in late December, I decided to put myself out there. I posted in a local Facebook group:
Well, I’m just going to put it out there. I’d like to make some friends! I moved to Palo Alto about a month ago, from Australia, with my husband and three daughters (aged 1, 2 and 4). I’m without my usual friendship circle and feeling a bit lost. Quite possibly because I’m not working either. I’d love to meet some local laid-back mums who like good conversation and wine and whose children aren’t perfect. Let me now if you’re keen to meet up during the day with the kids, or even one evening sans kids.
I let the latter half of that final sentence imply a desire for wine times. ‘Cos that’s what ‘no kids’ equates to, right?
I went to bed hoping that at least one person would comment on my post and I wouldn’t feel too embarrassed for having opened up so publicly about my lack of companions.
Eight hours of broken sleep later, I checked my Facebook notifications.
53 likes and 99 comments! OMG!
So, as it turns out, there are a lot of other women here in Palo Alto who like wine, whose kids aren’t perfect and who want to make connections with others. So many, in fact, that I couldn’t really arrange individual meet-ups with every person! And so, I decided to take it upon myself to arrange a drinks night at which everyone could meet and chat and connect. Because when you see a need, why not go for it?
With a newfound sense of purpose, I got straight to work. I’d been in town for a month, and hadn’t really explored the local night spots, so it was an interesting job trying to track down a suitable location for this very special event. But thanks to Google, Yelp and some helpful suggestions from people interested in attending, I managed to find a charming wine bar which was happy to set aside an area for us and waive the need for an extortionate minimum spend.
So it was that on 10 January 2018, forty – yes, four-zero (!) – local mums descended on Vino Locale to meet strangers, drink and chat about their imperfect lives. I must say, I had no idea I’d get that kind of turnout. I’d even roped my above-mentioned friend into arriving with me in case I was there on my own.
Just to think: I actually, seriously thought I was going to be alone. That not one person would show. It’s easier said than done, but this experience has helped me realise that if ever we’re feeling alone, there is always someone close by who’ll be feeling similarly. They need you too. And they’re probably next door. Or on the street just over. Or in the same neighbourhood.
Just make the effort. Connect!
Thanks to this event, I’ve met some pretty wonderful people from all over the world. There was a bunch of Americans from other parts of the US, as well as the usual majority of expats from Australia, the UK, Europe and Asia. Everyone had interesting stories to tell and I found that there were a lot of super-accomplished Trailing Spouses feeling just like me.
The night was a good laugh. The Australians and Brits tended to gravitate towards each other, resulting in much friendly mockery of American English, fuelled – no doubt – by copious bottles of wine. Whoops.
The Americans took in good humour our exclamations about such things as: handbag vs. purse; purse vs. wallet; boot vs. trunk; bonnet vs. hood; chickpeas vs. garbanzo beans; main course vs. entrée; coriander vs. cilantro… and my personal, ‘mind-blown’ moment: dried cilantro is called dried coriander here (even though the fresh version is still called cilantro).
Mic drop. I know, right?!
But seriously: these women just felt like my people. Do you ever consider who might be in your team should the apocalypse hit and the zombies take over? Well now, I am pleased to say, I have most definitely, certainly, absolutely added to my friendship arsenal. Zombies, watch out.
Firstly, I’ve found a friend who is definitely going to be a regular dinner and wine-date mate. There’s no doubt about it. She commented on my original post “you got me at wine”, and then began an exchange of coincidence and commonality, something along the lines of this:
Friend: I’m originally from Whitby, North Yorkshire.
Me: I know Whitby. Fish ‘n’ chips! Captain James Cook! Dracula! My ex was from
Middlesborough so we were often oop North!
F: I went to university in Middlesbrough! Then I lived in Fulham before moving here.
M: What?! I lived in Fulham when I first arrived in London! Are we following each other around the globe?
F: I did my gap year in Australia… My sister lives in Melbourne.
M: No way. I am from Melbourne!
Even though her move here had been in a different order to mine (moved here as a single person, for her own job), she has already gone above and beyond to help connect me, personally and professionally. Since meeting, we may or may not have had one or two boozy nights out as well!
And get this: this new friend has set about volunteering to organise my 40th birthday celebrations! And here I was thinking I’d be toasting my fourth decade on this planet at home, covered in sand or glue or play dough… or something even less palatable.
Secondly, I’ve found a lovely friend who is now my SoulCycle buddy. She’s a million times fitter than I, but I’m grateful to have someone to go to these classes with; someone who doesn’t laugh at my attempts to appear coordinated or to disentangle my feet from the pedals! We do our class and go and get a fresh juice together, sharing stories about kids and life in Palo Alto. We even share those all-important park play dates together with our kids.
On top of this, there are even more for whom I’ve developing a wonderful sense of companionship and trust. These are women full of interesting stories. Women with talents and aspirations and dreams. Women like me.
So when I really think about it, all I did was succumb to what I needed: friends. I asked the universe, and I received.
Friends, and friends of friends, have been very generous in facilitating introductions to those who live in the local area. I’ve had dinner dates with complete strangers, and those dinners have been wonderful. Inspiring. Refreshing.
The pre-school that Clara attends suggested some contacts amongst the parents with whom I could get in touch. One of these women even made play dough for our girls shortly after I arrived – a small gesture, you may think, but when your shipping hasn’t arrived and your kids are without toys or entertainment, a batch of play dough makes your day infinitely easier. It’s those little gestures that warm your heart and make you realise that there are friendships – incredible, warm, generous friendships – out there to be made.
It’s got me thinking: how did it ever come to be that adults feel they can no longer make friends? Friendships aren’t restricted to childhood. If ever there was a time that we needed friends, it’s now! Well, it certainly is for me. Hell, I even just went to get a dress altered, and the dressmaker decided she wants to connect me with a local singing teacher she thinks I’d get along with! Magic does happen. We’ve just got to say yes to it.
And so, finally, my once barren and tired social calendar is freshening up, and I feel a bit more like the old me. The Clare from Melbourne. The Clare that has friends. The Clare that has loads of love to give to those who’ll happily offer it in return.
To the women who’ve become my comrades here, to the women I am forging friendships with, and to those I am yet to meet, thank you. Thanks for supporting me, and for going out of your way to welcome me into your world. Because I’m about to hit 40 and I think I’m sure-as-hell going to need some support to get through that ….
*If you’re reading this, my dear, I want *a lot* of notice if you do decide to get going! I may decide to strap myself to the airplane so you can’t actually leave).