I said good-bye to Bree at the Pizza Ranch. Our playgroup of moms and our kids and spouses gathered in the party room to load up on the buffet, take photos, and present Bree with a scrapbook commemorating how we “grew up together”—that’s what we called it. We were eight moms who met under the haze of parenthood at an infant class offered through the school district. We showed up once a week, sat on the floor with our firstborns, sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” and surprise, found out we could all be friends.
At our playgroups, Bree complained of our winters, of feeling stuck inside for months at a time. She spoke of “wanting a new start” for her life with husband John. For years, she’d poke around the internet looking for jobs that would suit John and eventually found one near Fort Myers. They sold their house, gave away all their winter gear, and moved their two daughters to sun and palm trees.
After Bree left, I kept thinking I would still see her around town. The event at the Pizza Ranch, though marked with gifts and photos, felt a lot like any other party at a restaurant. We ate supper. We managed to talk, despite interruption, over the chaos of our sixteen kids—toddlers needing pizza cut and grade-schoolers asking for more ice cream. All normal stuff.
I never saw the moving truck. Or the boxes and boxes of belongings stacked in the back. I never saw their house, empty after it’d been sold and cleaned up for its new owners. The grown up in me, though, knew all of those things had happened. That she was indeed gone. That I wouldn’t be running into her at the park that summer.
At the time, I was pregnant with my third daughter. I spent months nauseated from any food that wasn’t a blueberry or an egg. I holed up when the heat of July and August hit. And that fall and for the next year and a half, I let myself enjoy the euphoria of being a new mom again, focusing on breastfeeding and all the milestones of a baby’s first year.
Then, with my youngest weaned and running stairs and screaming joy at the sight of her daddy, I was free to skip town. I visited Bree with two other playgroup moms last January. On the first day, after lunch and a boat ride, we sat on the patio by Bree’s pool. All the planning, packing, preparing involved to get to that seat fell away. We were the same moms, same friends enjoying a night out.
She told us about living in Florida. How her girls ride the bus to school; John greets them when they get home. How she found a full-time job with a clothing company. She loves it. She loves the weather and what she calls “Florida colors” which I infer to be shades of turquoise, powder blues, bright yellows. Her mother and step-father followed suit, moving from Tennessee to a few miles from her home. She feels lucky to have her family close again. I was happy, genuinely happy, to witness this contentment.
Which brings me to March, two years since Bree left. Yes. I will admit it. Even though I just saw her in January, I miss this friend and fellow mom. I miss the simplicity of driving across town to meet her at a restaurant. I miss her sassy sunglasses and earrings dangling. I miss her barley soup, and her voice, when she tells me the truth.