She and her Little approach the heavy, engraved door and knock.
A faint “come in” compels her to enter.
The home is a bustle of giggling girls, chatting moms, the sure-tell signs of festivity.
Her Little runs to greet her friends, immersing herself in a craft and handing her gift directly to the birthday girl – both equally excited about the potential of its contents.
She inhales deeply. Why is this so hard for her? What is it about this scene that causes such angst? The hostess offers her a cup of coffee which she gratefully accepts. She cradles the cup with both hands as it provides solace and comfort.
She wanders over to the gathering circle of moms.
“How are you?”
“How does your Little like school?”
“Where do you live again?”
“What does your husband do?”
All dutiful questions are asked.
She excuses herself to the restroom.
Returns and checks on her Little.
She feels that pang of guilt for not trying hard enough.
She instigates question after question and listens to the responses given. She does everything in her power to engage. She listens actively, learning that So-And-So and So-and-So are in the same Yoga class, and So-and-So and So-and-So go to the same church. She tries to smile at the right places, and laugh when the others do. She even smirks at the inside jokes among them, having no idea what they are talking about.
A couple of the Littles notice that her attention is waning, so they jump on the opportunity to invite her to help them tie knots in their bracelets, paint their toenails, retrieve a snack.
She does so willingly because it allows her to feel like she has value.
Once all these tasks are completed, she steps back and becomes the Surveyor. Since this is not her first gig, she has learned that she can take on this particular role about 3/4 of the way through one of these shin digs without drawing attention to herself. It is a time when she takes stock of the previous conversations. She analyzes her own questions and responses, seeking out any trace of where she might have committed offense or alienated another.
Cake is served. This one is gluten free with avocado disguised as chocolate frosting. Her Little is not fooled and refuses to accept a slice. She wonders if she needs to have a talk with her Little after the party about manners.
The event comes to an end. She lets out the breath she seems to have been holding the past two hours, gathers up her Little, and polite thank-yous make their rounds among the room.
As she drives home, she is utterly exhausted.
And, once again –
once again, she tries not to fixate on