At the House of Pies, the waitresses are old and the fish is probably not young. It's the type of diner where one might see, as I did last week, a transgender homeless man in a full admiral's uniform eating key lime pie.
The House of Pies is where my happy place rents.
Every couple of weeks, I sit in the corner booth with my friend Gina, my last remaining non-mom female friend. She's all I have left from the other side, a glimpse in the rear view of life before frog-shaped humidifiers and time outs. She is a few years younger than I am, so it's not like she's pining for a life like mine, nor does she resent me for having things she doesn't. She's not trying to have a baby, but she's not avoiding me just because I do.
So, I have Gina. And I have the House of Pies.
We eat oversized English muffins drenched in butter and drink diner coffee that tastes like dish washing detergent, teenage runaways and unfinished novels served by waitresses with penciled-in eyebrows who call you "sweetie."
After two years as a mom, something in the survival center of my brain requires me to find the relative merits of preschool teaching methods important. There are volumes of information I must now digest, some of it harder to swallow for the non-parent than clotted Saltines in yesterday's clam chowder. Something primal in me, something that requires me to protect my son and give him the advantages he needs to compete and survive, that primitive brainstem thing makes me care about some seriously boring crap.
However, I understand the deeply mundane nature of most things that interest me now. Unlike the mom who posts a photograph of her child snuggling with the family cat on Facebook -- as though nothing this adorable has ever happened in the history of domesticated cats and human children -- I am aware that nothing much that I'm experiencing is particularly unique.
The fact that inhalers don't work as well as nebulizers, the fact that the steam train in Griffith Park only runs on Sundays, this kind of talk is more dangerous to non-parents than a cutting board smeared with under-cooked salmon. It's deadly, deadly dull. Perhaps even to your mom friends.
Just because I have to figure out where to find an affordable denim jacket for a kid who is "barrel-chested," doesn't mean anyone should care. No one should care. And just the same, the juicy topics that used to keep me glued to diner chairs with girlfriends gulping cold coffee for hours, well, I still love that stuff.
Gina dates. She goes to parties at what I am embarrassed to call "hot spots," because someone who goes to them would call them something less "gossip column circa 1997." She goes to Vegas with friends on a whim just because one of them has a room. She goes to Brooklyn and couch surfs. She is like a spy filing intelligence reports about what happens in an exotic foreign country, the strange world that doesn't revolve around kids.
The thing about Gina is that she loves babies, and she wants to see pictures, but our conversation won't be dominated. We can talk about the old days.
Sure, I still work, I still grocery shop, I see all you people, but you look different to me now, now that I traverse the city in a vehicle with a child safety seat and half-empty juice boxes and baggies of Trader Joe's Cheese Crunchies.
Gina carried over, so she still looks the same.
She doesn't know she's letting me see the world like I did before. Not that it was better. It's just that I spent so long there; I sometimes miss it.
When Gina salutes the admiral, who walks by with his chains and boots, and tells me, "She is amazing. I love her," I know what she means.
Keep your non-moms close, because not only do they provide much needed intelligence from the other side, and a bridge you can cross over and back when need be, they never, ever smell like Play-Doh when you hug them. They smell like where you used to live, and remind you that you actually can go home again, at least if you live at the House of Pies.
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