October 22, 2012
My kids frequently ask me “Why don’t we have any family friends like So-and-So?” Today, as I told this to my friend, not a “family friend,” I choked up. Of course, lately I tear up over a lot of things, but this particular question by my kids underscores for me how isolated we are, how much we’ve lost. it makes me angry and sad at the same time. We used to have family friends, I tell them. When you were little we had friends. We went out with other couples a few times a month. We were invited to holiday parties and birthdays and barbecues. We invited friends to our home and they would bring their children and everyone was happy, or so it seemed. Even before I knew my husband was an alcoholic, I began to dread these gatherings. His behavior, which in my naivete I did not attribute to drinking, changed. When he had an audience, he became louder and obnoxious. My husband wasn’t funny, but he thought he was. He wasn’t witty or clever. He was sometimes just mean. At other times, he was overly affectionate, grabbing me and kissing me, sticking his tongue in my mouth in front of other people, showing off and claiming me as his own. When his alcoholism became fact, he no longer would drink in front of me, but at parties, he would sneak off and drink with others because they did not know his secret. Eventually, I stopped accepting invitations and became more and more isolated. How could I maintain friendships with people when we were keeping a dark secret? The secret was not that he was an alcoholic. The secret was that our perfect little family was not so perfect. We had three beautiful children, a nice house, cute pets, vacations, horses, private schools,… and yet every morning I woke up in fear. I smiled at my neighbors and other parents at school and pretended everything was fine. I felt like a fraud. I cried in my car and wiped the tears away before I picked up my children from school and practiced smiling in the rear view mirror.
Last December, the children and I moved into our new house. It is the perfect house for entertaining, with large open rooms and beautiful views of the sun setting beyond the trees. There are no bad memories of yelling or swearing or scary drunken footsteps coming up the stairs. This house has good energy. And so my children ask me, “When are you having friends over?” “Let’s have a party.” They want to fill the house with life and love. For Christmas, the children had chosen gifts for me, bowls for dips, dishes to hold nuts and olives and crackers, encouraging me to have a party. I’ve had a few of my friends over, and of course, my family, but not “family friends.”
I will get us family friends, I tell them, but I’m not sure how.