I do my best feeling in the car. Something about sitting there, focused and stationary, for all the feelings I ignore so well all the rest of the time to inflate conspicuously. Throw in some old song on the radio, and I’m done for: sick pit in my stomach, lump in my throat, all the sad sap cliches. This morning I was on my way, a little late, to take my boy to his school and, I swear, like somebody planned it, I clicked on the radio and heard the beginning of Once In A Lifetime. And it’s funny how a song like that can hit me two ways: first, the obvious, hey! I haven’t heard this one in a while. dang, I’m getting old. but then, oh! how did I even sing along to this when I was younger? I didn’t understand it at all. You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here? How did I get here, indeed.
Right about there, mid-song, with me all full of nameless gnawing feelings, mister six asked from the backseat, “Mom, how old are you again?” If dogs smell fear can my kid sense the unseen outpouring of so much internal ooze from his mother? Even as he appeared to have been stuck in his own quiet thoughtfulness and/or possibly picking his nose? “Thirty-six.” You may ask yourself, where does that highway lead to? You may ask yourself, am I right, am I wrong? “And how old is dad?” “Thirty-eight.” Letting the days go by, into silent water. My boy went back to his quietness and I resumed my situational existential crisis.
My daughter turned thirteen yesterday. As in, the baby who made me a mama is now a TEENAGER. Of course I think she’s terrific, it’s in my job description to spew effusive praise. But she’s more than that. She’s kind of magical. She could suddenly be spirited away on the scaly back of some otherwordly beast and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised. It’s not just her cleverness or independence, it’s not her wit or her stamina, it’s not the way she was speaking in paragraphs when she was just 1 or how she’s now forty thousand words into her current novel-in-progress. I could tell you all these details and it wouldn’t be enough and you might not believe me anyway. She is a wonder. I am lucky (times a billion) to know her. But thirteen!
We dyed her hair pink, her long wild mermaid hair. We gave her a bass guitar. (something new on the side, though fiddle remains her steady.) I asked her to learn the tabs to Seven Nation Army for me and she promised she’d try. She still plays sincerely with her little brother and makes up the best, most riveting stories for him. She’s complex and awesome and a little lonely. She hopes that by the time her next birthday rolls around, we can be back in the city. And I hope so, too, with plenty of time to spare, even.
After I dropped my boy off and he ran inside, I drove the twenty minutes home and without having to keep my game face on for child passengers (the baby napped in his seat), I cried like a mother. I cried like a mother whose baby will have a very serious surgery soon and still have a difficult life ahead. I cried like a mother who lives in a town that is the wrong fit for our family, for so many reasons, and I don’t know how to fix that. I cried like a mother who has been hurt by the changing nature of friendship; things you once believed to be true and constant can veer sideways. I was overcome by the exquisite mortality of living, of the perfect ugliness of this great big beautiful world.
You may ask yourself, how do I work this?
I came home. Drank tea. Switched laundry.
(that cute five year old girl up there really is thirteen now, holy smokes!)