…When Cary and my stepson joined me in that home, it was still spacious. My German Shepherd, Rocky, was our second child, and we began to enjoy all the comforts of city life. Cary’s border collie blue heeler mix dog, Tia, came to live with us, too. There were a number of elderly couples on our block, and a few single career women. We went for frequent walks during evenings and weekends, and began to recognize faces of neighbors on our block, then the surrounding square mile section known as Montclair. It was at the central park spot, known as Kittredge, that my husband, stepson, and our four newest family additions first met the families that would became known as our “Playgroup.”
We met one family, another, then a third, and the women began to discuss the idea of meeting on Friday mornings in each other’s homes. All the moms were homemakers, caring for their toddlers while the dads worked, and all were in need of some supportive and encouraging friendship in that often lonely and overwhelming season of life.
Our first meetings were very impressive. We each cleaned our homes from top to bottom, served complex recipe brunch dishes with exotic ingredients, had pre-planned icebreaker games, and even purchased new toys to entertain the toddlers. Our family had just started homeschooling, and so I had the only elementary-age kids in the group. My older boys were quickly sent outside so as to not endanger the younger girls and babies. Within a year we were to the point of “come as you are” to our typically messy homes, and we gladly consumed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches washed down with water!
Some very memorable stories of playgroup happened at our house, of course. A new family joined, and they had two daughters the same age as my one- and three-year-old girls. At that time, we had two dogs: Tia and Bailey (a young collie that belonged to my stepson.) While the children played in the back yard, the moms sat on the back patio, chatting and getting to know the new mom and her young girls. Bailey kept barking for some reason—probably at the squirrels that ran the fence tops. I began calling, then hollering “Hush Bailey!” every few minutes. The dog continued its irritating barking.
Finally, I got up and went toward her, shouting “‘Shut up, Bailey!” With the annoying dog finally silenced, I turned around, heading back to my seat. Glancing at the new mom on my way, I saw she was looking at me and was quite horrified. Thinking maybe she was a PETA person who didn’t believe in yelling at dogs, I didn’t say much. Then, she burst out laughing. It had dawned on her that I was yelling at our dog, Bailey. What I hadn’t known yet, was that her older daughter’s name was Baylee! Thankfully she quickly forgave me for what she had thought was my disdainful behavior towards her innocent daughter, and we have remained friends, laughing about it ever since!
A scarier story occurred when another new family joined the group about a year later. They had two appropriately-mischievous sons and a quiet daughter….