The mom of our milk brother, the baby who had been taking our milk until he was six months old, gave me this huge gift basket before she left town for the holidays. Her name is Lucy and she gave it to me out in the parking lot behind the cafe where we had lunch together. In the basket, there was chocolate, cookie mix, organic wine, a gift card, a thank-you letter, and a few other things, and the basket was wrapped with clear plastic and tied with a ribbon. I had my son on my back and mist in my eyes; she got in her car, and I got on the bus, boy on my back and gift basket in my arms.
Lucy and I have a tumultuous history, which I will not go into here. Suffice it to say, like a fox and a hound, we make an unexpected duo to be friends.
When she was pregnant, and we had lunch together with my then-little baby, who knew it would become so much more? I found out a week after Lucy's son was born that there was too little milk. I had been donating my extra milk to the San Jose Mother's Milk Bank for about two months by then, so it was automatic that I offered the extra milk to her. She accepted, and thus formed our bond.
Even after that, it was a little strange to hang out. Lucy is one of the strongest and most determined women I have ever met. I cannot seem to shake this shyness and awkwardness when I am around her. My limbs suddenly seem too lanky; I bump into stuff; my balance is off; that filter between my brain and my mouth which keeps me from spouting nonsense stops functioning. The first time I ever met her, I made a pyramid on the restaurant table with the utensils, glasses, and condiments. While cackling. I am a little better now, but not much.
Months passed; she would pick up milk at our house, or I would bring it by to her. It was not much: maybe half a serving or a serving of milk a day. When her son was six months old, we met for lunch and told me they were weaning him off my milk. I knew this day was coming, and I knew my milk was not their staple, because there was so little of it, but it still made me sad. My son was about ten months old. "Who will I pump for now?" I thought. Preemies from the milk bank need preemie milk, not milk intended for ten-month-olds.
Lucy and I met for lunch once more before she left on an extended vacation. That was when she gave me the gift basket.
I wrote Lucy a letter in which I said how much I appreciate and value our intimate bond. In writing the letter, as in receiving her gift, I was touched. And like an eighth-grader confessing her love to a boy, I felt a little tingly, and awkward.
One of my mother's friends has a saying: "Who would have thought that I, a plain Russian Jew, would be watching New York from the top of the Empire State Building?" or, "Who would have thought that I, a plain Russian Jew, would be dancing Flamenco at the New Years Eve party?" or some other unpredictable event. It means it is a surprising turn of events, given the background.
Who would have thought that I, a plain Russian Jew, would be friends with Lucy, after all these years?
I still have about a hundred ounces of milk in my freezer.