Looking for Mrs. Goodpark

Or, Bookstores are the New Bars

After picking Dido up at school today (have I mentioned that, since leaving the driving capital of the universe, I now drive two and a half hours per day, minimum?) and stopping for the requisite afterschool bribe snack of ice cream (chocolate cherry, an adventurous choice for two children under six, I thought, and delicious, I can assure, since I had to "help" them keep their cones from detonating all over the store like some Willie Wonka-invented IED) we made a quick trip to the post office (to pick up our mail) and then I gave in to the Babe's entreaties to take them both to the park. The weather was glorious today--the best kind of spring sun and breeze combo--and our little town park was as full as I've ever seen it with kids. The local pre-ballet class had just finished at the arts complex next door, and the place was crawling with girls in leotards and their (non-tutu'd) brothers. My companion-starved kids were in heaven.

I stood there like the fat girl waiting to be picked last for kickball, trying to look completely unphased as all around me, moms stood in tight, chatting groups. No one gawked or pointed, mind you (unlike when I actually was the girl picked last--never mind that I'm fatter now than I thought I was then.) Finally, the Babe took the fall for me. The park has one of those old fashioned merry-go-rounds--the kind you run around to spin and then leap on. I remember loving them as a kid, and at least in L.A., you never see them anymore. No doubt too many potential head injury lawsuits. I've seen three of them so far here--you go, brave and stoic parents, children and parks departments of the northeast. Dido loves these things--running, jumping, dizzyness, all in one activity. He was pushing a bunch of the post-dance class girls, and the Babe wanted in on the fun. For a while, she was content to sit on top of the wheel, but then she wanted to push with her brother and another big girl. She ran as fast as she could, but the momentum of the wheel knocked her down on her face. She was dusty and surprised, but, in her typical fashion, after two dismayed yelps, she was done with crying. Seeing my kid faceplant finally softened up a few of the other moms. In the way of all moms on all playgrounds, they offered consoling color commentary on the Babe's performance: "That was more of a roll than a fall. Nothing really hit the ground" and so on. Her biting the dust, so to speak, broke the ice for us all.

Woe to the even half-normal, half-interesting-seeming person who throws me a conversational bone these days--I am become a regular chatterbox, with so much nothing to say that I might as well be a Fox News commentator. And like my kids, I'm so anxious to feel I belong here that I will pretty much grab onto any sociable life raft. Lucky for me, the friendly woman wasn't just half-interesting, she was totally interesting, smart, cool, someone I'd really want to have as my friend, if first impressions are worth anything at all. Twenty minutes later, I had the lowdown on local summer camps (free--yes, you read that correctly, FREE to kids in our town, paid for by the town), schools public and private, and a slightly clearer picture of the social hierarchy of my low key, friendly but still small town. When this gang mentioned a first name, if I had met someone in town with that first name, chances are, it was the same Sarah or Beth or Joan. Ok, it happened twice, not three times, but still. This either means I'll find myself in a lovely, tight-knit community, or some twenty-first century Peyton Place.

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