Carpool friendships can outlast the driving

November 29, 1998|By Susan Reimer

WHEN IT COMES to carpools, it is not just the children who are trapped in a moving vehicle. The parents, too, are stuck. Stuck in relationships born of geography and convenience, not necessarily kismet.

It is a rare group of women (and it's almost always women, the relationship-builders, who arrange carpools) who can salvage friendship from the chaos of getting someone else's kids from one place to another on time and with the necessary school supplies or sporting goods intact.

Not so for Ann Woodward and her carpool mates, Jonna Lazarus, Lisa McKeachie, and Susan DiCamillo. They lived near each other in Poplar Hill, and for eight years they carted some combination of their seven sons to St. Paul's School. There was a daughter in there somewhere, too.

But nothing lasts forever. Three years ago the McKeachies moved to Charleston, S.C., and the DiCamillos to Boston at almost the same time. It was a sudden, shocking carpool bust-up.

The kids got over it. No scars on their young hearts. But the women missed one another.

"I remember Lisa saying, when her kids started nursery school, that she wanted to drive her kids herself - every day. That lasted about two weeks, and then she joined the carpool," says Ann Woodward.

Her son, Andrew, a junior, was the only one left at St. Paul's after the Lazarus boy went off to boarding school. There is no pool of kids to drive anymore.

"We had a schedule and everyone had one day and there was a swing day," says Ann. "Jonna is a landscape designer, and she drew this beautiful schedule with a little swing on the fifth day and with our names with the right date."

The carpool morphed into potluck dinners - which is a carpool kind of meal - and the women would have dinner at someone's house twice a year and include their husbands. That was harder to schedule than anything they ever did with their kids.

"We'd find a good date in January, when nobody does anything," says Ann. "And then we'd do it again in the summer."

When the McKeachies and the DiCamillos moved, the four women would lose touch with one another for months at a time. No one writes letters these days. Telephoning is rare, too. It seems that all we can count on for contact with our friends is the carpool.

"But the minute we would hear one another's voice, even after months, it would be like old times," said Ann.

The women got to know one another's children so well they would regularly feel the urge to find out how the kids were doing. And the mothers, too, if it came up.

"In carpools, sometimes you get to know the kids, but not the parents. Or you get close to the parents and not the kids," says Ann. "We had both."

The carpooling mothers talked about it for a long time before they did it. But they finally scheduled the ultimate carpool: They met in New York City for a two-day reunion.

They did restaurants and museums and a play and talked until their tongues were tired.

"We picked up right where we had left off. It was just the right amount of time to catch up," says Ann.

Of course, they went in the middle of the week. Getting away for a Saturday is impossible when you are in a sports carpool.

"We had a wonderful time," says Ann wistfully. "We want to do it again.

"None of us ever take trips by ourselves." Hers is the carpooler's lament.

"It was nice to leave everyone else at home."

Pub Date: 11/29/98

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