birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

People Like Us

There was always a little friction mixed into each social engagement. I am certain we were not entirely up to snuff. I was not a concert violinist with a degree in Russian literature. My husband was not a British mathematician with a brother who directed Hollywood movies. Our children were bright and clever but not rocket scientist smart. They were all those things.

She gave off a slight air of condescension, smiling but in a patronizing way. She loved to correct. Our children played well together. Mostly. Oftentimes when our children were small, we would be invited over for a play date only to spend it sitting in their living room while her six year old read a book on the couch. My kids would get restless waiting for a signal for playtime. Sometimes we would go home before that ever happened.

That seemed rude to me. I am a great proponent of children reading but when guests have come specifically to see you, wouldn’t it be polite to interact with them? Wouldn’t you ask your child to put the book aside for a little bit to talk to her guests?

She was very anxious about her cooking. She believed we were better cooks than she – and she was not wrong, we are good cooks – and that we were judging her food all the time. That is not the case. We were and continue to be delighted to be asked to someone else’s house for a meal. It is a rare occurrence and maybe the food is better at home sometimes, but we would never say such a thing nor imply it, as we were too pleased to be invited. Also, too kind. Even the time she served pork sausages that were still raw in the middle. We moved them to the side and kept eating the rest.

That last dinner at our home was a disaster. I don’t remember what we cooked but the conversation was uncomfortable. She was displeased with her husband who she felt was drinking too much wine. He drank some more in defiance. She cornered me in the kitchen to enlist my help in curbing his intake. What? I thought, he looked fine to me. Not drunk at all. And, seriously? Not my place to intercede. Don’t put me in the middle of what appeared to be an ongoing disagreement between a husband and wife. Not going to go there. I offered dessert and coffee.

The children went off to play ‘kitties’ in the other room. They were too loud. The conversation got heated.

It turned to genetic testing for illnesses. I said, even though my mother had died from breast cancer, I did not want to take the genetic test to find out if I had the gene likely linked to it. The test did not prove that I would certainly contract the cancer if I had the gene, nor would it conclusively prove that I was immune to cancer if I did not have the genetic predisposition. I felt the yearly testing was enough for me – the doctors were very thorough based on my family history - and if I had found out my chances were statistically greater, it would leave me considerably more anxious.

Unbeknown to me, she took great offense at this and thought I was criticizing her advocacy of the testing. Her family had a history of ovarian cancer and believed the testing to be important. I agreed.

The next day, she called to tell me her family was breaking up with my family. We couldn’t possibly remain friends as we had belittled her position on the genetic test.

I reiterated that I had not made fun of her at all and my remarks were only an opinion of how it might apply to me and finding out about my own chances of breast cancer. I believed ovarian cancer was an entirely different thing because there was no test to discover it in advance. It was only diagnosed once it was too late and you already had it. If a genetic test might lead a woman to decide to prophylactically remove her ovaries, it was a very private decision that doesn’t even show on your body. Prophylactically removing breasts, just in case, is very different. I saw the validity of the test for ovarian cancer as more important.

No go. She wasn’t buying. They couldn’t possibly stay friends with people like us.

We see them sometimes at our local farmers market. We haven’t really missed them.

It Doesn't Grow on a Tree

Warring Promises