"Hey Paula…" the desperation in Kasha’s voice screams louder than her son in the background.
"Do you want to go somewhere?"
It’s the warmest and sunniest day of the year so far, a gift better than chocolate for two homemakers like us.
"Yeah…" I pause, mulling over park locations in my mind. Will it be the quiet splendor of Naturealm? Or the hustle and bustle of Fort Island, a primary-colored paradise for kids? Nope. A day this magnificent calls for only one place. "What about Hinckley Reservation?"
Like an eager tour guide, I watch Kasha take in the huge waterfall at the park’s entrance. The sheet of gray liquid rushes over the lake’s edge like a wide curtain hinting at delights to follow.
"This is beautiful," she says.
Our first stop is the cozy boathouse down the hill, where we sip coffee and bribe our kids with Skittles to buy a few minutes of blessed peace. Mid-morning fog lingers atop the tall pine trees.
"This is the life," I say, reclining in a plastic Adirondack chair.
Getting up, we pass a throng of women and children hanging around the lookout deck. "Does anyone have a dollar?" a lady asks frantically.
I dawdle with my two preschoolers, eavesdropping on her friends’ responses: "No," one says. "I didn’t bring any money with me," the others say.
Reaching into my stroller’s net pocket, I fish a dollar out of my wallet and slip it to her. "From one mom to another," I whisper. "Awww…" they all croon.
"So, do you want to head back?" I ask Kasha, hoping against hope she’ll say no.
"How long is the whole thing?"
"I think about 3.7 miles."
Kasha looks ahead. "We can walk it."
What a precious jewel. In this strange land of stay-at-home motherhood, where lonely moms stand around playgrounds and ignore each other, I’ve found a mommy soul mate.
Pausing, plodding and praying, we circle the entire lake and end up back at the waterfall. Crossing the bridge, I notice the same group of mothers picnicking on the grass, their children frolicking nearby in the shallow creek.
"No water," Kasha calls from behind me, stopping.
Is that a command? I continue on, fighting against my bossy older sister, whom Kasha has now morphed into.
Suddenly, one of the moms hands me a dollar. "Come join us," another calls from her spot on their blanket. Wow – in a world of closed mommy cliques, this is like the cheerleading squad inviting me to sit at their lunch table.
I shoot a glance at Kasha, standing off in the distance.
"My friend doesn’t want to get in the water," I shrug. It’s bad enough that I’ve pressured Kasha into letting her son play with mine in the creek; for me to join the other women at this point just might send her over the edge.
Inching away with one eye on my babies, I approach my seething buddy.
"Those moms said we can use their beach toys…" I venture.
"What time is it?" I ask.
Then, giving her an out for her declining mood, ask, "Are you tired?"
"I’m ready to go," she snaps.
We dry off our kids and argue the merits of preparedness versus spontaneity back to our SUVs. Our first semi-fight. I try to make sense of the situation. Surely all this anger isn’t over a little water. Am I being inconsiderate? After all, Kasha has been up since before the birds – and is probably reeling from a mean case of PMS. I should cut her some slack.
"Sorry you didn’t like the water." I extend my soft tone like an olive branch into her open window. Kasha nods and sweeps her jet-black hair off her neck, shooting me a look that says,
I give up. How on earth do you have a real fight with a woman and remain friends? These aren’t my career-focused, childless 20’s when I could steal a friend’s man and barely blink. No, these are my family-focused, repentant 30’s and I need all the good women friends I can get. Especially mommy friends.
My brows furrow with consternation as Kasha trails me home. My cell phone sings and I scurry to answer it.
"Hey Paula?" Kasha’s voice is soft and relaxed. "I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings. That park was really nice."
I smile big, glad that we’ve come full circle. Just like our journey around the lake, where my one-dollar investment returned so much more to me in kindness.
"Water under the bridge," I say, extending love and forgiveness. From one mom to another.
Paula Mooney is a freelancer writer who lives in Akron with her husband and two young children. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This essay originally appeared in the August 2005 issue of Akron Family magazine.