It started out as a journey to friendship. There we were, in a massive new city, and I knew two or three people, none of whom had children. But I had heard about this mom group that met at the corner of Prospect Park, and at the very least, it was something to do on a Wednesday morning.
It was a labor of love to get there. My perception of New York City before living there was that you just “hop on the train” to get from point A to point B; but what I hadn’t considered were the logistics of doing that with two toddlers and all the gear necessary for a full morning outing. (Truth be told, you almost never just “hop on the train.” It’s a little less breezy than that.)
We made it that first morning, the birds chirping in the trees and Lauren Gilmore’s smiling face. “You came! I can’t believe you came all the way!” she said to me, with the best hug I’d ever received in my life. Should you ever have the chance to get a hug from Lauren Gilmore, never let go.
“Let me run across the street and get you a coffee,” Lele said. I reached in my pocket for money. “No, don’t worry. You just get me next time.” She trotted off.
I was introduced to Jessica and Jess, Allison and Allyson, and Emily and Patricia – all of these beautiful, friendly women seemed to be from unique walks of life. Their children and a shared faith community brought them together on Wednesday mornings. I sipped my coffee on a patchwork quilt, and I shared a bit of my story while my daughters made friends and played in the dirt.
This was the first time in my life I’d met my tribe. Maybe I didn’t know it yet, not after that first day. What I did know, was that it was worth going back again.
So every Wednesday morning, I would rise earlier than other mornings. I would pack the bottom of my stroller with sand toys and snacks, blankets and diapers, plus lunch for me and my two little girls. I’d strap Edith to my back in the Ergo, plop Iris in the stroller, and I would walk a half- mile to the G train. I’d coach Iris down the stairs, bumping the stroller down each filthy step. We’d wait up to 20 minutes for the train. We’d ride for 30 minutes. We’d finally take our leave of the G at 15th Street – Prospect Park, and I would begin the climb up the stairs. Usually, there was no one there to help. As the summer dragged on, it was miserably humid, and I could have sworn those were the steepest sets of stairs in all of Brooklyn. I’d have to trust Iris to follow me up while I lifted the loaded stroller, balancing it in front with the baby on my back.
We would finally make it to the top. We’d turn the corner and walk down the wide path into the park. And there would be Lauren and Lele, Jessica and Jess, Allison and Allyson, and Emily and Patricia. Later, I would meet Tamsin and Susan, Melanie and Britni, Meghan and Nikki, and Ashley and Katherine. All of these women, who knew little more of me than I’d just arrived a month ago from Colorado and had to take the train from Bed-Stuy to Park Slope for our Wednesday meetups, saved me.
First, it was friendship. But then it was my people. These became the women I told my fears to. They were the women who I could trust to keep an eye on my children, trust their guidance if some needed given. They were the women who knew how I liked my coffee and offered to sit with the kids in the evening so my husband and I could get a night out. They didn’t care about my off-color humor – they laughed even. Later on, when we moved to Park Slope just to be closer to this community, they were the women who sent rescue remedies when we were sick. Some of them even saw my infamous ragged green sweatpants, God forbid.
They were the women I sobbed to when it was time to leave New York. They’re maybe the only friends I’ve ugly cried to.
And now, a year later, they are the women who send me texts messages like: “I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you today. You’re on my heart. Is everything OK?” From 2,000 miles away, they know when it isn’t OK, and they take the time to check.
Friendship is beautiful. A tribe is life-giving. It is worth everything you have to give it – whether a sweaty journey of an hour just to be together, the handing over of all your trust and hope in people or the promise to remain together through the heartbreak of distance. It is the bond never broken.
Sarah Ann Noel married into a family where she became the fourth Sarah Noel, so in the interest of originality, Sarah Ann Noel it shall be.
Sarah is a wife, a mother, and a prodigious over-thinker, fueled by superfluous amounts of caffeine. She likes to color coordinate her books and leave her hair messy. She and her family travel a lot, which Sarah documents through photos and video. Sarah is a freelance writer and contributes regularly to several magazines and online platforms.
She is working on her first book. Read more at sarahannnoel.com.