A Love Letter to the Soccer Moms of Rockingham County

It happens at school pickup, but not all at once. I stand around the edges, outside the invisible circle, for a week, two weeks. No one speaks to me, and I speak to no one. It’s the way of this place. One weekend my husband, a born New Englander and an extrovert, meets Ally at a playground. Everyone knows Ally, and Ally knows everyone. The next Monday, she takes my elbow and introduces me to Emma, and Miranda, and Nicole, and Anna, and Marissa. We compare children. Mine are in Kindergarten and preschool. Anna and Miranda both have two the same age as mine. Ally has a pair of twin girls. Marissa is pregnant with her fourth. Emma is from New York, and mostly keeps her mouth shut. The kids come pouring out of the building and into our arms. And I’m in the circle for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.

Ally throws the best parties. She lives in a big Victorian on a corner lot less than a mile from the school, and on summer nights we gather on her porch. She likes to say she doesn’t host, but there are always little bowls of crunchy salty sweet things from Trader Joe’s, and a board with cheese and grapes. And there is wine. Lots and lots of wine.

We all have our trademark behaviors, the things we do beginning on glass three or four. I like to brag about how hot my husband is, although as the years go by I start to notice that everyone else has a good-looking husband, too. Anna worries—about what she’ll do with herself when her kids get older, about whether she should cut her hair or grow it out, about the status of her never-ending kitchen renovation. Ally holds our hands and kisses us and gently, sweetly, suggests that we might try a threesome someday. Emma misses New York. Marissa, the therapist, wisely takes herself home and goes to bed. Everything else is a fog, and in the morning I’ll have to walk over and retrieve my bicycle, which I found myself unable to ride home at the end of the night.

We are growing hair on our chins. The hair on our heads is going gray. Our periods are unpredictable, and a few of us are having hot flashes. Many of us go back to work or start our own businesses. A few get Botox. I am now uninterested in how hot anybody’s husband is.

Anna is ten years older than the rest of us, though she doesn’t look it, and on her second marriage. Her husband has an artificial valve in his heart.

Ally discovers she has Type 1 diabetes. She stops drinking for a while, but it doesn’t stick. She gets an insulin pump and carries on.

Miranda’s husband puts his fist through a wall, and she throws him out of the house.

Nicole and Emma both get diagnosed with breast cancer in the same year. Chemo, radiation, surgery. They survive, and Nicole becomes an activist. Emma, the New Yorker, seems completely unchanged by the experience.

I hurt my back running, and it never gets better. I’m in constant, severe pain. I see chiropractors, physical therapists, neurosurgeons, physiatrists, pain specialists, energy healers, and shamans. I go to New York City for a three-day Ketamine infusion that causes a near psychotic break and does nothing to help the pain. I try nerve blocks, muscle injections, and every medication under the sun. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. I stop going to Ally’s parties because I find it difficult to concentrate on anything. As the years go by, I stop talking about it to anyone but my husband and my therapist. The soccer moms assume I am fine, just suddenly unfriendly. Except Miranda. Miranda surprises me by calling once a week, asking how I am, and even, once, on a very bad day, coming over to my house, crawling into my bed, and holding me while I cry.

For better, for worse.

The kids still need to be driven to soccer. Baseball. Ice hockey. Field hockey. Theater. Dance. And so on. My daughter comes out as bisexual, and joins the Gay-Straight Alliance at her middle school. She cuts her hair short and dyes it pink. This all goes surprisingly well for her. One of Ally’s twins is a wreck, and they have to put her on medication for ADHD. This helps, but not enough. Thank God she has her sister.

I do my best, through the pain, to live my life. When I see the soccer moms of Rockingham County, I assume they’re doing the same.

My son is still in elementary school, but old enough to walk home when the weather is fine. There are fewer and fewer of us at pickup. One winter day, I notice a woman I’ve never seen before, standing by herself. She’s wearing the wrong kind of coat, and stomping her feet from the cold. I remember my first year in this town, and I introduce myself. Her name is Sarah, and she’s from Virginia. Her son is in my son’s class. I take her by the elbow and bring her into the circle.

The snow melts, and the crocuses come out. My back still hurts, but I’m inching closer to acceptance. I run into Ally when I’m out taking my dogs for a walk. She’s having a party on her porch this weekend. Even though I can’t ride a bike anymore, I call up Sarah and we walk over together. It’s still chilly, and Sarah is wearing the wrong kind of coat again. We laugh about it, and Ally lends her a sweater. I do not explain why I’ve been missing. I only say it’s good to be back.

In six years, my daughter will graduate from high school. At this point in my life, six years seems like a blink, a blip.

And it is.

She leaves. My son leaves. Ally’s twins and Sarah’s sons and all four of Marissa’s kids leave. We aren’t soccer moms anymore. Fully half of us are divorced. Besides Nicole and Emma, we each know at least one other woman who’s had cancer. Our mothers and fathers are dying.

But we aren’t. Not yet, we aren’t. Ally still holds our hands when she’s had one too many, God bless her, still kisses us and gently, sweetly, suggests we might try a threesome someday.  

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