A Good Way to Shut People Down

When we moved to Brooklyn, I didn't expect it to be easy, but still I was surprised at how brutal our introduction was. My girls were three years old, and four months old. I was coming off a C-section, and I'd been sick with some virus or another since Lucy was born. When we boarded the plane, both girls and I were fighting stomach viruses and colds. Simultaneously. I was nursing. We arrived in the dark on a cold Sunday night in March. Justin picked out our apartment alone while I was putting our house in Colorado on the market, so I hadn't seen our new home yet. Seeing it that first night was tricky because the electric company was working in the street and our building was completely without power when we arrived to inspect it. I walked into the entryway with the girls, and every possession that hadn't gone in the moving truck, and the hallway suddenly filled up with flashlights and voices. Our neighbors had come out to introduce themselves. There's nothing more reassuring than disembodied voices in the dark, right? Someone loaned us a flashlight. I accepted reluctantly, worried that it was an imposition. I helped the girls up the precarious staircase that felt downright treacherous in the darkness. After "seeing" the apartment, mostly by street light, we rushed to the store to buy the air mattresses that would be our only furnishings for the week, until our moving truck arrived the following weekend. My husband went to work the next morning (the rest of us were still horribly ill and stumbled out in search of toilet paper), and he was kept an hour and a half late in meetings. I saw the neighbors again, in the light where I met their faces. A family below us had a young son and seemed excited to have more children in the building. Emma offered to watch the girls for us when the movers arrived. I thought she was being polite. Then she offered again a couple days later and I considered the possibility that she really meant it. The baby was pretty stationary, but my three-year-old would have trouble staying out of the way as movers carried heavy loads blindly through two entrances. So I accepted. I think I went back to get her three hours later, but Emma says it felt more like twenty minutes. (It was at least two hours.) I was worried about imposing,leaving her so long that they'd regret offering and never do it again. When I knocked on the door, Emma asked, "Are you sure?" Movers were still filing in and out. But I was at the limit of what I was able to receive. "Yes," I said. I thought I was not overstaying our welcome, but when Emma and I tell the story now I realize that "whisking" my daughter away made Emma feel like we didn't trust them. It took me a year to confess to her how difficult it was for me to receive that gift, how I couldn't even believe they really meant it--100 percent and all day long, if necessary. It took two years for me to learn how my "manners" really made her feel. I'm really thankful that our friendship survived that hard day, and I'm sad that my struggle to receive shuts down the people offering me real and true gifts. When someone offers me anything that is hard for me to accept, I remember Emma on moving day. I say, "Thank you." And then I say, "Yes."