My pool team had been newly eliminated from a pool tournament, and as we packed our gear and disappointments — we’d played poorly and missed an opportunity for more money and a larger tournament — I got a phone call from a friend, and I was delighted by the sound of her voice. “We got the book,” she told me. I had sent her two children a book (“Good Dog Carl,” by Alexandra Day), a gift that “deserved a phone call.”
I met Ericka when she walked up to me in a bar in downtown St. Louis. I was practicing solo on the pool table when this young lady walked up to me, put out her hand and said, “Hi: I’m Ericka. Would you like to shoot a game?” That began a friendship that continues today, long after I met the boyfriend who invited me to be a groomsman at their wedding; long after I met her beloved father; long after she became a mother. Through the years, we have built memories and shared joys.
She was happy that I had been shooting pool when she called. “I miss it like crazy,” she told me. I remember watching Ericka shoot, long before she introduced herself. I admired her mechanics, her focus and her shot-making ability. After we became friends, and since we both lived downtown, whenever she wanted to shoot some “midnight pool,” she would call me, and I would walk to Jack Patrick’s Bar and Grill. The condo shared with the man who became her husband was across the street from the bar, and even had a pool table in the common room. I would shoot on that table when I watched their cat while they vacationed. The birth of their son signaled the beginning of the end to Ericka’s pool league competition, and when their daughter arrived, she retired from active competition. But we have remained friends, and she was a comfort to me when my mother died.
Ericka was in Target when she called me, and as she took delight in a child-free shopping trip, we caught up on each other’s lives. She asked about my two youngest children — both of whom she has met and befriended — and told me that I had to meet her daughter. I agreed, and reminded her that I had yet to meet her son, now a beautiful, dark-haired three-year-old. As she wandered the aisles of our favorite store, we talked about her father, the man to whom she was proud to introduce me. She lost her mother when she was a young woman, and was devastated when she lost her father a few years ago. “You know; I know you know,” she said to me. I told her that I believe that our griefs are unique to ourselves, but that I certainly understood hers.
Ericka is a busy woman, a small business owner with a three-year-old and an 18-month year-old. “They keep me busy,” she laughed, “But I love it.” My communications with her are mostly via text message (Me: “I need some advice about daughters”) or by stalking each other’s social media page, so it was a rare and wonderful change to hear her voice. I have been sending her children books that my children loved, and writing notes to them, which she saves for when they can read. (I confess to a little formation of moisture when I heard that.) But I love her, love her husband, and cannot wait to roll around on the floor with her children, and to read to them from whatever book of love they choose.
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