"Wow," Keba said to me as we threaded our way through the crowd at a neighborhood event. "I am getting a real glimpse into your life. It's intense." We stopped at the dessert table.
"What do you mean?" I turned to face her. I was wearing J in the ergo on my back, so I glanced to make sure she couldn't reach anything on the table. She patted the back of my neck, babbling in her not-quite intelligible way.
"Are you kidding? Everyone is staring at you." Keba grinned, "Wondering where you got that baby." I smiled and looked at my neighbor who, a week away from her due date, wasn't exactly inconspicuous herself.
"It's because my baby is so gorgeous." I winked at her, and our conversation turned toward the event we were attending, the food provided, and our favorite topic of discussion - the building and neighborhood we both call home.
I thought about what she had said later, after putting J to bed that night. We live in a diverse neighborhood, where there seem to be just as many brown faces as pink ones and it's not at all rare to see a mix-matched family like ours. But yes, people look at us. At first I was always looking back, trying to figure out what they were thinking and if they were curious and why. Now I have all but forgotten about it - if Keba hadn't mentioned it I would never have noticed the extra attention we were getting.
It is actually pretty easy for me to forget that our family doesn't look like other families, these days. This is due to lots of really good things in our life. Everyone in our life knows our story, and we are constantly spending time with our neighbors, friends, and extended family - all of whom have also at this point forgotten that there is something different about our little trio.
At this point J doesn't really know that we are different either, at least not in a way she can name. But at some point, long after I have become totally used to who we are, she'll realize it. It is important for me to keep this in mind, and be ready to answer questions and hear the feelings. Keba's sensitivity was a good reminder.
Thursday morning word spread through our building that Keba's water had broken. Texts flew, passing updates as we had them. Her mom arrived and as J and I went about our day we ran into Keba walking the stairs, pausing to breathe while her husband or mother rubbed her back. All three of us were part of the crowd of friends and neighbors that cycled through the expectant mama's livingroom to cheer her on and have a peek at the birthing tub sitting where the dining table used to be. J was enthralled with Keba's belly pointing and patting it, and sidling along the couch to stare deeply into her eyes. She knew something big was up. That night I joined two other women from our building as things got more serious. We took turns rubbing Keba's back, bringing washcloths and ice chips, and timing contractions when her husband or her mom needed a break. As I listened to my friend breathe I marveled at how strong and beautiful she was, and what a big work I was witnessing a small part of. I went home around ten, before the midwife arrived, kissing her shoulder and whispering a thank you. I felt wistful, happy, tense and teary. The next morning we woke to the news that her beautiful girl had arrived safely in the night and all was well.
I love where I live. The gift that is my neighbors, our community, cannot be overestimated. As I held that hours-old baby for a few moments yesterday morning (while my own child flew into a jealous rage) I thought about how these glimpses of each other's lives enrich us, educate us, shape and hold us. Keba's baby was born into such a big love - parents, neighbors, grandmother and more. There are strong webs of care that connect her to J - who arrived in this circle via a different path but is here just the same, at the center of her own big loving web of support and tenderness. Our families come together in different ways but here we are, living and sharing lives with each other.