I am not alone, as a wife and mother in my early 30s, in feeling very much defined by those two roles. Although I do work full-time at a job I love, many of my thoughts and most of my evenings are taken hostage, albeit willingly, by the needs of two adorable children and one fantastic husband.
Every once in a while, however, I glimpse a flash of my life pre-family and yearn, just a little bit, for the days when Saturdays were completely mine, when leaving the house was a 30-second grab-the-purse-and-go affair, when more books were read than gathered dust, rather than vice versa.
A never-fail remedy for this lapse into "where did my 20s go?" nostalgia is a night out with my high school girlfriends. Many women, I think, have some version of this group: a handful of women you have known since junior high or high school or college who, despite gaps in your friendship due to distance or life changes, remain a cherished link to a time when you began the slow move out of childhood.
We do not meet up often, simply because of the inevitable busyness of our lives, but when we do, it is a gathering of several hours over a meal at a restaurant or our homes that always leaves me feeling both slightly older and slightly younger. These are women that I have known for almost 20 years. Back then, we were girls navigating the labyrinth of high school as a herd, following a similar path that would quickly diverge after graduation. Now, some of us are wives, some of us are mothers, all of us are working in different careers, and all of us have settled back in our home state, after some detours along the way.
The other night, after we all gathered at Chef Matt's restaurant, I thought about all the meals that I have shared with these women throughout my life and how those meals changed as we did. In junior high, we consumed untold amounts of pizza and Coke in our parents' basements. In high school, we spent hours at Bakers Square and Perkins, eating chicken strips and pancakes and likely irritating every other patron in the store with our nonstop laughing at nonsense. In college, we ate handfuls of Doritos to balance out the beer.
Now, although more grown-up and slightly more subdued, we still get together around dinner tables. We eat at nicer restaurants now, or potluck in our own dining rooms, but the spirit of our gathering is still the same. We all have the grown-up lives we never thought would come, but manage to maintain the connections that brought us together when we were young.
I would not trade my life or my family to have those younger years back, even for a day, but I love that I, and a half-dozen of my oldest friends, can still conjure them up in our 30s version of the Perkins camp-out. In 50 years, as we are sharing half-sandwiches at our 4:00 dinners, I believe those younger years will still be alive for all of us.