The first time I run into Marilyn it's because I'm racing down the street to claim a shoe that Samantha threw out of her stroller. We exchange a weary, we've-all-been-there glance and I head on my way. A week later we see each other at the park. This time, we chat. It turns out she and her husband have an apartment around the corner from us. We exchange numbers and I walk home with an extra spring in my step.
The next day the phone rings and I hear Marilyn speaking haltingly into our answering machine. This is a bit fast to be calling, I think, but I pick up. It turns out her son, Jordan, is sick and she's seeking a pediatrician. I ramble on about my doctor and find myself getting more and more nervous as I'm met with long silences on her end. Is it me who's weird, or her? The call ends awkwardly.
I call to find out how Jordan is feeling, and Marilyn and I make plans to meet at the park. She tells me that Jordan has been having tantrums recently but says he's like that cartoon frog who doesn't sing in front of people -- he's mellow for everyone but her. When I laugh at the reference, she says I'm the first person who's gotten it. Maybe we do connect.
I get to the park and put Samantha on the swing. A half hour, then 45 minutes come and go. No Marilyn. Am I being stood up? After an hour I call to say I need to leave soon. It turns out her son's nap ran late. But because Marilyn sounds disappointed, I promise to wait longer. We go for a walk when she arrives. We talk about sleep, defiant toddlers, and our former working lives. That night I tell my husband, Danny, that although we seem to click, I'm having a hard time getting to know Marilyn. She's more reticent than I am. (I can talk the ear off a cornstalk!) Danny says, "Maybe she'll be the Laurel to your Hardy." I laugh. Maybe.
I invite Marilyn to our library's story hour. Once there, Sam and Jordan run in different directions, but Marilyn and I hang out when we can. She always seems slightly unhappy, which I chalk up to her son's tantrums at home. I have fun, but since she's not very forthcoming, I can't quite tell whether she likes me.
And then! The next day at Samantha's music class, Sue, a mom that I remember from last semester, shows up with her daughter, Ariel. Sue was always friendly -- we sometimes chatted after class at a coffee shop. I consider asking for her number, but now that I'm making an effort to have regular playdates with Marilyn, I feel I can't. It's hard to be committed to two people at once.
I call Marilyn and am struck by how happy she sounds. She's just been to a free music show with Jordan, so that could be the reason. Then she drops that she's meeting another mom at the park the next day. I'm floored. Marilyn invites me along, but I hang up, stricken, without committing either way.
The next day I head to the park because I'm just too curious about Marilyn's new friend. Yes, I realize it's a bit stalker-like, but Marilyn did invite me along. Strangely, neither one is there. As I'm helping Samantha down the slide, a woman approaches and asks if I'm Marilyn. I'm confused, but then I realize, my heart soaring, that this must be Marilyn's new friend -- and she doesn't know what Marilyn looks like! It must have been a playdate initiated through the neighborhood's Web-based mom's group. An Internet date! I explain that I'm not Marilyn but she should be here soon. When Marilyn shows up I give them their space, and when I join them later I hear Miss Internet asking annoying questions about preschools. She isn't my type, and Marilyn doesn't seem to be hitting it off with her either.
Okay, I'm always the one calling, but I decide to phone Marilyn one last time for a date. Then the ball will be in her court. When I reach her, she tells me Jordan will be in daycare every Tuesday from now on. What? Scheduling his one day of childcare for the day when we've regularly been having playdates -- if that isn't a kiss-off, I don't know what is. We make plans for an outing the following Monday, but my heart isn't in it. I get off the phone and spend the morning slumping around the house feeling rejected.
Then it dawns on me—I'm free! Tomorrow at music class, I'm definitely going to ask Sue for her number.