It was Halloween at The Hutch, a newish restaurant on Avondale near Pop’s, Provision Kitchen, Trader Joe’s and the rest
Kim and I have become unlikely friends at work. She has only recently returned from maternity leave – a hiatus I didn’t know if I could survive.
The restaurant was unusual to say the least. It smelt of campfire. There were microgreens growing on the sill just as we entered. The wait staff all had a similar appearance, as if familial, and took turns taking our orders, topping off our waters, and checking in.
We were seated by a window and shed our jackets. A cold front had barreled through forcing a dramatic shift from summer to winter.
“How’s baby life?” I asked her.
She paused and smiled. “I love my job,” Kim said, “It’s good to be back to work. I feel like myself again.
A server came around and took our order. We’d perused the spendy menu for some time but both settled on our picks. She had the BLT. I got the Angus burger, rare. We both requested frites. Kim and I usually go to Pop’s together. Lately it seems to be more and more frequent. But since I had already blogged Pop’s with Melissa, I wanted to try something new.
Kim said the first few weeks with little Kate, she and Kevin were in “survival mode.” They were sleep deprived. And Kevin was only able to stay home for those first two weeks before returning to work.
Kim is a happy new mom.
She and Kevin had a complicated and long road to conception. Bringing baby Kate into the world was winning a battle for them. But, Kim gushed, “It’s the best thing ever in the strangest of ways. She’s adorable.”
Kim told me that she may just walk to another room to run an errand. Or she may disappear to take a shower. And she misses Kate within minutes.
Kim told me she knew Kevin would be a great father even before they married. She knew so much so that she was ready to begin trying a year after they wed. I wondered aloud, as I often do during blog lunches, about my ability to dad. Kids are an enormous responsibility. Kids are a big change.
“It will test your relationship,” Kim sighed, “I don’t think people are honest about the reality of having kids.” She spoke about how difficult it is to parent, but so many people put up appearances online or in person about how wonderful and perfect and easy it all is. But it’s often not all those things, at least not all at once. And that’s perfectly ok.
Our food arrived. Mine was average, but Kim enjoyed the BLT. The frites weren’t crisp. My burger was cooked perfectly rare, but was under-seasoned and overdressed. It’s what I’ve come to expect from high-dollar restaurant burgers. Pop’s does it better.
Being a mother, Kim said, has given her a deeper frame of reference on her work. She is a social worker, formerly with DHS and now with CASA. No child should ever be abused or neglected. Ever.
“I totally see how it could happen,” Kim said. Circumstances get hard. Stress levels get high. To-do lists grow long. And sometimes people make mistakes. It’s our job –society’s job– to ensure they are rehabilitated, trained, and have the resources not to have it happen again.
I compared it to the homelessness problem. So often I talk to my homeless colleagues downtown and I hear terrible stories of how one thing. Just one mistake. One challenge. One hiccup. Can change everything.
Foster kids have it so tough. “This path is so hard to overcome,” Kim said. Foster parents also have a difficult task. They have to love these kids, help them mend, and then often send them back into the home where they were harmed.
Other than our fanaticism for the OU Sooners, Kim and I don’t share a lot in common. But what we do share is a special work-bond that has enabled us to be open with our thoughts and feelings and employ one another in a capacity of counsel. I’ve been so fortunate to have Kim as a constant throughout my employment at CASA. When times get tough. When I need help, stories or advice. When she needs a computer problem fixed or to vent. We’re there. A constant.
Kim is that person for a lot of people. She’s that person at and in her friendships. She’s that person for Kevin and now Kate. Kim is a special type of person with the right mix of wit and charm splashed with candor and tact that can say and do things that others often cannot. Things that need to be said and done.
As I often do, I asked “What’s next?”
All her focus is on making sure Kate grows up to be a caring, good person. And kind. Because Kim is a nurturer. She is already a fantastic voice for hundreds of Oklahoma County’s foster kids. And she now gets to be the one in the corner of a new little life who will shine and thrive under her and Kevin’s care.
When I originally approached Kim about sitting down for my blog, I wanted to come to her home and bring her lunch and see her momming for the first time. But I think this lunch was somehow just what she and I needed. Even though baby Kate was unable to attend, she was still there. In Kim’s eyes, she will always be present. And that’s parenthood. That’s love.