Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Rough Ride



Register columnist

Moving means saying goodbye. And goodbyes bite.

It's hard enough saying goodbye to your neighborhood coffee shop, your beloved bookstores, your cherished local burger joints. But our move this week was particularly hard for my 9-month-old son and me because we had to say goodbye to our favorite band of Harley-Davidson riders.

When I first started taking Zev out for walks in his stroller, it was into the loving, leather-clad arms of local loiterers that we rolled.

There was Russ, the ringleader, who was apparently whiling away state disability hours on a bench outside Peet's Coffee & Tea. Seated beside him was Bill, who, like Russ, never seemed to be without sunglasses or a warm smile. There were a few women, including one who would become Zev's music teacher, and an assorted cast of gruff-looking characters that most new moms would probably avoid.

But I'm not most new moms.

Amy warned me that having a baby would bring out the frizzy-haired scary lady in me. When she gave birth to Eli, she said she'd practically stalk other mothers at the park, peppering them with questions that sounded to human ears like, "How old is your baby? Does he sleep through the night?" but in frizzy-haired scary lady language, meant, "Will you please be my friend because I currently have no friends and I'm isolated and strange and am in desperate need of adult contact."

So I was prepared to pounce upon other moms.

What I wasn't prepared for was my debilitating shyness.

It seems I can write about the most intimate details of my life in a column for - what is my readership up to now? - three whole people to see every week. But when I try to make a new friend, I freeze up, get tongue-tied and usually walk away without saying more than "Hi." When I think about it, most of my friends are people whom I met organically, like at school or work. People I spent a lot of forced time with before gradually befriending. Or else they were people who approached me first.

Which brings me to the bikers.

For months I'd been sitting in Peet's, reading, writing, photographing my son and waiting. Waiting for all those moms who gather in their mommy groups to include me in their circles. Venturing out a little - oh, just a little- to introduce myself and my son.

Even going so far as to exchange e-mail addresses and phone numbers - but not actual e-mails or phone calls.

In between my awkward encounters with other moms inside the coffee shop, I found myself talking more to the gregarious Harley guys outside. They were the first crew of "regulars" to learn Zev's name.

They rejoiced with me when he got off his oxygen tank, learned to smile and started to crawl.

In time, I eventually did make some actual mommy friends. But I came to realize that I looked forward to seeing those easy-going riders week after week. They're friendly and fantastic, and infinitely approachable. I eventually stopped trying to ingratiate myself with other moms and spent more time on the bench outside, sharing Zev's latest triumphs (his fourth tooth broke through the gum!), exchanging barbs and watching as the guys bounced a giggling Zev on their thick knees.

After facing fears over quitting my job and dealing with the heartache of selling my house, I really didn't expect to get emotional when I told a group of bikers that I was moving. So when Russ declared it "an end of an era," the tears that caught in my throat took me by surprise.

"Yeah," I stammered. Then I turned and walked away without saying another word. Moving means saying goodbye, but I just couldn't.

Goodbyes bite.

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