Last Monday was the first day of my last semester of graduate school. I should have typed those words with enthusiasm, but I am not at all enthusiastic. I am so over graduate school. Sad, because I am an eager student by nature. But there are so many other things I’d rather be learning right now: how to play guitar, for example, or Italian. There is also so much more I’d rather be doing, like practicing yoga and reading and crawling around on the floor in hot pursuit of a tiny person who growls and then collapses in fit of laughter. That last part I won’t be giving up, not for all the graduate degrees at Harvard, but instead of Downward Dog and Tree, instead of book after book after book I keep discovering right in my own library, I will be “learning how to be a librarian” and “learning how to run a library.” You’re overjoyed for me, I can tell. I view the completion of graduate school in the same way I would view a race, say, a city marathon: at first you are pumped and the adrenaline is flowing as you fly forth from the starting block, but as you get farther and farther away from start you begin to slow down. You are sore and gasping for breath. You are too far in to turn back, but you want to duck into a bar and have a beer or, better yet, you want someone in a car to stop and pick you up and drive you to the finish line. Sadly, the grad school equivalent to having someone drive you to the finish line is called “paying someone to do all your work,” and I would never do that. But I probably wouldn’t argue if it all magically appeared on my desk. Eh.
But amazingly enough, even though I spent almost 30 minutes on that scintillating paragraph, that is not the topic of this post! The topic of this post is my new Best Friend Forever, or BFF, as she will be called henceforth. Some background first. I am a notorious waiting room magazine thief. When I was pregnant I would “accidentally” carry a magazine back to the exam room and then surreptitiously drop it in my bag at the end of the appointment. It was never a new magazine, and usually it was a duplicate. I saw it as a service I provided, a sort of recycling program: one old volume out of the way leaves room for a new one. I was the Masked Recycler. By the late fall, well into the third trimester, I was sick of reading about prenatal health care and gestational horror stories and how much labor was going to hurt, so it was a happy surprise when I discovered a copy of Wondertime in Dr. T’s waiting room. I tried to subscribe to the magazine online the next day, that’s how much I loved it, but I never got a confirmation, never got a bill, never got a magazine. I won’t lie to you: my first four issues of Wondertime were lifted from waiting rooms, first at my OB’s office and later at Mia’s pediatrician. They were not old copies, and there was not always a duplicate, and I am not sorry, because in my humble opinion, Wondertime is the best parenting magazine ever, or at least the best one I’ve come across. It is a smart mom’s magazine, filled with articles by smart moms*. One of those smart moms is Catherine Newman, and she is my new BFF. Catherine, everyone. Everyone, meet Catherine.
When I started reading Wondertime I was immediately drawn to Catherine’s articles. The reason for this can best be explained with a fascinating little story from my past: When I was in college, finding myself and figuring out who I was and blah and blah and blah, I was always amazed to meet someone who “got me.” You know what I mean: you are talking to a potential new friend and she mentions that she likes oatmeal pies, and you say that you also like oatmeal pies, and then she says that her grandmother used to keep them in a cookie jar on the counter, and you gasp and exclaim that your grandmother also kept them in a cookie jar on the counter; and before long you are comparing notes about the indoor/outdoor carpet in your grandmother’s kitchen (green squares for you, gold circles for her), and by the end of the conversation you are astounded to learn that you both imagine yourselves opening your car door while you are riding on the passenger side of a vehicle and tumbling onto the pavement, even though neither of you is remotely suicidal.
Reading Catherine’s writing is like that for me. I am reading along and suddenly I will feel compelled to say out loud, “Oh my God, I have also wondered about topical caffeine!” or “I, too, curse when I attempt to knit!” And as I am going about my life, mentally writing the endless blog entry that chronicles my scintillating existence and mind-boggling brilliance, I will say to myself, “I wonder if Catherine has ever done this,” as I wipe down everything in my bag and wave my coffee-soaked planner around in the air for the millionth time, because I cannot for the life of me remember how to close my travel thermos. Should the little button be in or out? What’s this red line here? Maybe it is significant! Indeed. Not that I think my new BFF is incapable, as I am, of closing a thermos. Not at all. It’s more existential than that. It has to do with connecting on a cosmic level, of finding meaning, and thereby kinship, in the simple act of living. Someone asked me recently why I blogged, and there is my answer: you people help me explain myself to me, to connect with myself, by explaining yourselves, by talking about your days and families and jobs. But I digress. Sort of.
When I first started reading Catherine’s blog, Dalai Mama, I linked to it through one of its two hosts, Disney Family or something like that, and there was much logging in and password remembering involved if you wanted to leave a comment. But I did it, I logged in and (gah!) reset my password every single time, and even set up a little profile with a picture, and sometime back in November I left a comment, something I hardly ever do unless I know you. Fast-forward to two weeks ago, when, having reset my Disney Family password yet again, I discovered in my little comment profile that Catherine, a published author of books and magazine articles, had RESPONDED TO MY COMMENT! Granted, she did not claim me as her new BFF, but she did compliment my picture, and, did I mention, she is a published author! It was exciting, much in the same way that, years ago when I was just out of college, it was exciting when Dar Williams stepped on my blanket at Lilith Fair during her little visit to the lawn seating area. I take connection in whatever form the universe offers it up to me.
And isn’t that what writing and blogging are all about? Connection? And didn’t I already say that? I think so. I never click through my blogroll without thinking, “Yep. Been there, obsessed over that.” It’s a comfort, even when the mutuality we share is often on the dark side (“Oh, you imagine a plane crashing into your house while you’re getting ready for work every day? Yeah, me too.”). Or even the bizarre side (“Some kid in the library smells like Stetson, which reminds me of my 7th grade boyfriend, who, oddly enough, is now a gay porn star, and now I am thinking about porn. Oh, you too?”). And that’s why Catherine Newman is my new BFF which, I should not even have to remind you, is not an exclusive title, because if you are reading this, you are at the top of my list.
*I am not suggesting that other parenting magazines are dumb, or for moms who are not smart, or whatever. I am just saying that I think this particular magazine is exceptional. I
steal those other magazines from work read those other magazines as well.