Walk into any Target in America, and you’re going to see women casually pushing carts, holding coffee cups. It’s almost a prerequisite for ambling the clearance sections on the hunt for the cute stuff with orange stickers promising at least 30% off.
For the most part, you’re going to see Starbucks cups because, well, there’s Starbucks in most Targets. But a few weeks ago, I was stunned by the cup a young mom held as she shopped— a Dunkin’ Donuts cup.
Now, for those of you who live in cities with a Dunkin on every corner—I’m jealous of you. We moved here to L.A. from Boston nearly two years ago, and I have missed my morning Dunkin’ runs. I’m stuck with artisan iced lattes with almond milk and well, Starbucks.
Enter mom with the Dunkin’ cup.
I don’t fancy myself a Target creeper. Truly, I don’t. If a pass a woman in a cute top or her lipstick is on point or I love her bag—I don’t stop and say, “Oh I love your (insert chosen compliment); where did you get it?!?!” We’re in Target—it’s obvious where we get all our good stuff.
But this was different. There was no way that woman got that iced coffee from Target. There had to be a Dunkin’ nearby.
For a moment, I thought about following her down the aisle to ask her where she got her coffee. But instead, I used Google (Google is our savior from many an awkward situation).
I found that a Dunkin’ was recently built a few minutes from my Target; the better news was that my Dunkin’ (because, yes, this New England expat will claim any Dunkin’ within a ten mile radius as hers) was near three playgrounds, and I was reminded of my favorite, simplest way to connect with mom friends—the donuts and coffee play date at the park.
With my kiddos a little bit older, they no longer need the structure of a morning play date before naps—but my soul needs them. I need to be outside with them, throwing a ball around or watching them play capture the flag. All this while drinking a fantastic cup of coffee.
I realized this when I was taking our dog, Fenway, to the dog park several times a day. I miss the simplicity of the playground.
I’m also adjusting to a new rhythm of driving more than ten minutes to see my friends.
In Boston, I learned to navigate adulthood on the T—getting kids on and off the train, budgeting monthly passes, and building my shopping list around T stops changed me. I miss the simplicity of meeting with a friend at a park halfway between us, bringing our coffee, splitting a dozen donuts and talking.
In LA, I don’t understand how anyone feels connected or in community when they’re commuting several hours in a car.
Anytime I hang out with my friends, it feels like a big to-do, which means I spend more money when we’re out because if I’m going to drive forty-five minutes, you better believe we’re going out for more than a $7 latte.
So when my girlfriend texted me to celebrate our daughters’ one year friend-a-versary, she threw out some fun but chaotic options—movie, beach, bounce house.
“How do you feel about the park?” I texted back.
The little dots popped up almost immediately.
“SURE! That’s sounds good. Easy. What park?”
“I don’t care; I’m flexible. But I’ve been missing Boston lately and I wanna surprise the kids so, can we go to Dunkin’ in Glendale and then find a park nearby?”
I knew Jess had the scoop on the best parks; she had a two-year-old and worked in Glendale.
“I know just the place. The kids and I will pick you up at 8.”
They came the next morning, then we surprised the kids with Dunkin’ and drove to a park less than three minutes away. We talked while the kids played, danced in the grass, and rode their bikes.
She talked about our biggest struggles during this season of life. We discussed the newest book out by Glennon Melton Doyle, and we talked about OPI nail polishes. We disciplined kids, wiped faces, kissed boo-boos, and encouraged another mom at the park with younger kids than ours.
It was simple and perfect.
I didn’t miss the T or Boston a single bit. For the first time in months, I began to feel like California was home.
Maybe one of the best way to transition to a new city is to hold on to a few special routines—because no matter where you go, those routines are an expressions of your joy and personality.
Later that week, I was driving our oldest to school. Both are tweens, with the deepening voices and perfected eye-rolls to prove it. As I pulled up to the middle school, my friend’s son said, “Saturday was fun. I like going to the park with you guys.”
My 13-year-old agreed, “Yeah, it was. Until the girls [their sisters] started dancing to Ariana Grande! Why do they have to be so basic!?!?” he agreed.
They laughed, I shook my head, and as they walked into the school, I reached for my phone to plan the next park play date.