Home and Deranged

Hanging with the grown folk

Hanging with the grown folk

I had the pleasure of meeting a woman for drinks last week who I’d struck up a friendship with over some work-related e-mail banter.

We exchanged descriptions of ourselves so we wouldn’t spend too long awkwardly lurking in search of each other. I joked that I’d be holding a single yellow rose.

I was familiar with my companion’s bio after having her write something for CultureMap, and I knew she had worked for the British Consulate for a good 30 years before retiring to write a family memoir. I didn’t mention that I’d been working less than a year, having just graduated last May.

She seemed only slightly surprised by my youth. It didn’t bother me; I’ve always loved hanging with the grown-ups.

As a kid, my parents could count on finding me, the morning after a sleepover, not hiding out somewhere to prolong my visit, but posted up at the big people table having breakfast with the adults. It was not uncommon to find me with a cup of coffee.

My mother’s three best friends double as godmothers for my two sisters and myself. Two are law professors, the other is a Duke graduate with a law degree. None of them knew quite how to address children, as none of them have any. So they talked to us like little contemporaries, which I have always thought was probably beneficial.

And I’ve always maintained relationships with my friends’ parents independent of my alliance with their kids. In high school, when one friend would ditch dinner to hang out with her boyfriend, I often stayed. I wasn’t one to turn down the food, sure, but I found the company more enticing.

These slight elders always had better stories, better liquor and the best advice.

Now at the office, I’m one of a trifecta of twenty-something females referred to as “the girls.” I still relish the atmosphere of our generationally diverse office, being near people who’ve done and seen so much.

But I’ve recently forged friendships with some grown folk I wasn’t anticipating. I remember, almost to the moment, when I realized that my parents weren’t just my parents. They were people who’d been alive and had history before my debut in this world, and who (gasp!) might manage to still exist even if I didn’t.

I realized they were only human. That they had stories and context to offer my life, and that it might behoove me to get to know them.

The single best thing about moving back home — more than the weather, the nominal rent (thanks, Mom) or the slightly stronger job market — has been getting to know my parents.

It’s not the same as when I showed up over winter break in college, dropped my laundry and was out the door to play catch-up with friends. “Family time” is no longer a holiday obligation.

My dad and I went years without speaking unless out of necessity. There was a time we had trouble standing in the same room. These days, we meet for happy hour. I’ve been embraced by his motley crew of friends and golfing buddies — they call me “Junior Mint” — and he feigns irritation when his party invites are addressed to “Jim and Caroline.” (He acts as if he used to have at least the option of securing a date.)

And my mom, who was always first and foremost my caretaker, is now a friend whose time I request instead of demand, because she’s worldly and smart and funnier than I remembered. The first time she invited me to come with her to Anderson Fair, I got the same cool-kid feeling I did in high school when we went to house parties at the popular kids’. I just like hanging out with her; she talks shit better than anyone I know.

I tried as hard as I could to find any excuse not to come back to Houston. It’s been almost a year, and it might be time to start looking for a place.

Now I’m looking for excuses to stay.

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My dad and me at a Christmas Party. Both our names were on the invite.
News_Caroline Gallay_hanging out_old folk
My mom is worldly, smart, and funnier than I remembered.
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Old (obligated family) times at Benihana