What’s important about this photo is what’s not pictured — all my friends, the mothers of these children: Phillipe, Lucas, Autumn, Mikey, Kevin, Audrey, Maddy, Vincent, Dominic, Logan, Amber, Ben, Mary, Rachel, Anna Nicole, Kyle and two little girls that I can’t remember anymore. Motherhood does that.

This Mother’s Day, I need to thank a special bunch of women. I call them The Mommies, although that’s nowhere cool enough a name for our little troop of ladies. We met 13 years ago when our kids were not even old enough to roll over, when some of us still carried the poor babies awkwardly, unsure of what to do with these half-adorable, half-squalling messes we were suddenly in charge of. We’d gather at a strip mall storefront across from Marathon airport and spread our little baby blankets on the carpet and let the infants squirm on their tummies, trying to lift up those ginormous heads.

I’m sure one of The Mommies could tell me the name of the health organization that sponsored this little get-together, or even the facilitator’s name, but that information was flushed from my memory banks long ago. When the storefront closed, and the facilitator moved on, our little group had no reason to stop meeting. We met at Sombrero Beach (remember the old playground with its rusty edges?), and at each other’s houses for first, second and third birthday parties. It wasn’t long before we were registering our kids at the same preschool, after much discussion of course. Along the way, we picked up more young mothers, bonding over T-ball and dance classes and PTO functions.

I would be lost without these women. Lost.

While my kids and husband are the fabric of my life, the ladies provide the structure. The Mommies are a weird combination of sister, auntie, mom, grandmother, best friend and the mother of your best friend growing up. In the Keys, where everyone (almost) is from someplace else, we get to pick our family. And The Mommies are my Keys family.
Sometimes I think that we’re all too different – parenting style, income, church, job. And other times I know we have this one great unifier.
I can’t tell you how many times they’ve saved my bacon and made things easier for my family. In a pinch, they can babysit at a moment’s notice. They are willing to share home remedies for chest colds and doctor recommendations. Someone need a ride home from the baseball field? No problem. And, they’re prepared, gosh dang it. From the bowels of their purse or the treasure chest of their Tahoe trunk they produce drinks, snacks, wipes, band aids, bungee cords and on one memorable occasion during potty-training season, a tiny toilet. They hand over telephone numbers, coordinate holiday parties, and meet me at the beach when I’m dying for a little adult conversation. They’ve also called their child to the phone when my own was desperate for the details about a homework assignment she didn’t write down. Or helped me push cake when I over-ordered a giant birthday creation from Publix.

The Mommies are also my confidants. I can whisper my doubts and fears about my children or their teachers or my ability as a mother. They also listen to my unvarnished glee when my kids do something great.

And it is absolutely my pleasure to do the same thing for my friends. It’s why I attend functions that my kids aren’t even participating in, or coach academic teams, offer sleepover dates when the parents are celebrating an anniversary. Sometimes, I confess, I really don’t want to (insert heinous hair-shirt martyr thing here), but I do, because my friends asked it of me. I do it for The Mommies, as a show of solidarity.

Thank you, ladies-in-no-particular-order, for always having my back: Leslie R., Anne R., Michelle F., Anneke P., Lisa T., Nancy P., Yenni L., Angie G., Lena P., Angela S., Cindy M., Sarah F., Wendy S., Heather K. and Jeannie G.; and some who have moved away, but exist still in my heart and photo albums like Stacy R., Maria P. and Kim V.

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