I”m sorry I didn’t get a chance to talk to you.
I was likely caught up in something or other, even if that something or other was taking care of my need for caffeine or adult conversation. It’s likely I was catching up with friends, trading summer vacation stories, cracking wise about back to school being the most wonderful time of the year. I may have even seen you standing over there, hiding behind a coffee cup or a table leg, looking for a way to stick a toe into the small, tight clusters of people dotting the cafeteria landscape.
I should have made more of an effort because not that long ago I was the new mom at school. I remember how intimidating it was to walk into a room full of people who seemed to know each other, people catching up, trading war stores; a room full of people who weren’t worried about their fourth grader settling in or fretting their second grader would falter. I remember what it was like to walk into a room of people already familiar with the school and the curriculum and the teachers. It wasn’t that long ago I watched folks hugging and smiling, laughing that kind of openmouthed, head back laugh that friends laugh with one another, wondering if I would find friends like that: right before my train of thought derailed at “Ugh, I can’t believe I have to do this again.”
I’m sorry I didn’t make my way over to your corner. I remember how much effort it took to make small talk, how I just longed to hop in a souped up DeLorean and zip line six months back to the future. I remember what it was like to struggle to remember the fifty new names being shouted over the noise–forty-seven of which I’d never heard before and would need to have repeated at least a hundred times before I got them right. I remember what it was like to wear a smile on my face even though all I wanted to know was where to get black beans. I remember having so many questions and yet not wanting to seem dumb or pushy or loud or clueless; of trying to be interesting or cool or at the very least, not annoying. To make enough of an impression, but not too much of one. It was exhausting. It was confusing. It sucked.
So I’m sorry if I didn’t properly introduce myself, or if I seemed more interested in what someone else was saying. I’m sorry if it seemed like I cut you off or didn’t answer your questions. I’m sorry I didn’t give you my phone number or my e-mail or told you to come on over if you see me hanging out in the playground, or to come sit with me at a table if I’m having coffee with a group of people in the mornings.
So I’m telling you now. Come over. Pull up a chair. Because even though I remember, most of the time I forget. I get wrapped up in something or caught up in conversation or tied up with details. I am to-ing, fro-ing, running on half a cup of decaffeinated empty. Sometimes I’m too impatient to relay information or make sure my kid’s got a ride home from football practice. Sometimes I’m in dire need of a coffee. Sometimes I’ve had a fight with my husband or my kids have pushed me to the brink. Sometimes I’m tired or bitchy. It has nothing to do with you.
But most of the time, I simply forget what it’s like to be new.
So don’t let the laughter intimidate you. Don’t let the circling put you off. In my case, don’t let the pink hair or tattoos put you off either. If I don’t smile, it’s probably because I didn’t see you. If I don’t invite you to sit with me, it’s probably because I’m caught up in my own dramas. If I ask you to repeat your name, it’s probably because it was too loud to hear the first time I heard it. If I rush by, it’s probably because I’m looking for a kid who’s forgotten his lunch money.
We were all there once. Most of us will be again. And we all remember. Even when we forget.