CG and I arrive to Z's classroom's "Thanksgiving Feast" right on time but it seems all the other parents got there early. Z runs to me, clings to my legs, hopping up and down.
The room is small and filled with small furniture and small people so with E strapped to my chest and my big bag full of rolls and cranberry sauce on my back, I feel like a giant trying not to crush any woodland creatures. Parents have already begun filling their plates and chatting in small groups and I sweat my way through getting our contribution on the buffet and peeling Z off of me every two minutes.
I notice all the parents and kids are wearing adhesive name tags, something that we suggested might help at school events and I start scanning them for the names I recognize from Z's stories. Z sits at her spot at a low table, eating nothing but rolls and butter. None of the kids at her table speak to her. Two of them I don't hear utter a word the whole hour CG and I are there.
At the table next to ours, four girls bounce in their seats, chatting over top of one another, laughing and trading food. I recognize their names as "friends" of Z's from her stories. I also note that they are clearly at the older end of the age range of the classroom and clearly have strong friendships with each other.
"Z? Do you want to introduce me to any of your friends?"
At another neighboring table, more kids are giggling away, with their moms chatting above them. I try not to think about what I'm wearing when I glance at the moms' suede boots and highlighted hair.
The center director, obviously remembering me saying that we were having a hard time meeting people here, brings one of the suede booted moms over to me, introducing us to each other, although we've met before.
"Your daughters are the same age! I thought maybe Z and A would like a playdate sometime!"
The mom smiles faintly at me and we both stammer a bit about didn't we meet at back to school night?. She says something vague about her group of moms that get together and doesn't she have my email already?
I don't remind her that I've already emailed her about it. Twice.
On the way out, we pass one of the little girls who features prominently in Z's stories of the playground. The girls pass each other without comment and I replay some of Z's stories in my head, suddenly realizing that Z doesn't include herself in her stories of silly, happy playground activities.
I arrive at the movie theater on time and scan the concession stand where I'm supposed to meet these moms from the large Meetup.com group. There are no clusters of mom-like people at concessions so I stand there for a few minutes, sweating, before continuing on to the theater which is already full of teenagers and moms and couples debating the relative merits of Edward Cullen and Jacob Black. I realize scanning faces won't help since I don't know who I'm looking for and consider sitting by myself before turning on my heels and going back out to the lobby, trying not to let any tears escape. Two women aren't far behind me and when we arrive at the concession stand, all three of us are scanning faces.
I try to smile like a normal person as I approach them and can't help shooting a quick glance at their feet.
No suede boots.