If you had asked, many years ago when I was young, what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have answered “a writer” without the slightest hint of hesitation. Prior to my dreams of becoming the next Louisa May Alcott, Dorothy Parker or Erma Bombeck, I would have replied “nun,” “ballerina,” “adventurer,” or “doctor.” At the age of nine, having watched Audrey Hepburn in The Nun’s Story (on the late, late show,) I figured I could combine nun, doctor and adventurer. After one rather disastrous ballet lesson (the free introductory lesson,) it was determined that I was not suited for the graceful exertions of ballet. (Read: I leapt like a spastic frog, and was promptly reminded that one doesn’t need running starts preceded by spitting in one’s palms before rubbing them together to perform a proper jeté.)
Life, I like to tell the kids, takes up places we never imagined, and makes us do things we would have scoffed at in our youth. I, for example, used dolls to play “surgeon” rather than “mommy.” That I have spent a considerable amount of time doing what I do out of (a previously undetected) vocation for motherhood (of the most proactive, commando style) is a surprise I would have found unpalatable in youth. That I dedicate my time to write more grocery and to-do lists than anything else is something that would have crushed me when I was a girl. There is very little excitement to be imbued in grocery and to-do lists; you can, maybe, get really descriptive about what tasks you need to complete, throw in some “big words,” and such, but…it’s still just laundry, cooking, cleaning the lint out of the dryer, the litter box, and the toilet bowls…all four of them.
The grocery list can have a more exciting slant to it because, as the week progresses, you start writing things that -because you’re in the middle of putting out a fire in the kitchen, running down the last few steps before you forget what you mean to jot down, or walking back from the school bus in a drizzle while the words NOODLES and SODA are being repeated incessantly- seem rather cryptic when you look back during a calm, quiet moment. Our family has, over time, become accustomed to putting things like Richard Gere, BAMF bags, BS cheep, TPPT, thingies and Voldemort on the grocery list. That is, in “normal people”-speak: mayonnaise, large trash bags, boneless/skinless chicken, toilet paper and paper towels, sanitary napkins and cheddar cheese (because we don’t mention it or J goes overboard buying it.) Other times, because I don’t quite slow down to write what we need in words that even I can identify later, we get to the store with something that reads F&Wp5605/10. Instead of being an item (Dada once thought I meant to write our car needed either tires, a filter or a miracle,) this is a note to myself reminding me that I want to try the recipe in the Food and Wine magazine’s page 56 of the issue in May 2010. (Mind you, I don’t know if that’s the actual recipe…I didn’t go back to check if this reference is correct.) In other words: hey, BEFORE you go to the store, check this recipe to figure out what you need. Instead it becomes a “huh?” moment at the store.
These days I aim a little lower; I aim to get out of bed in the morning and make it back to bed at around 11 PM without some sort of disaster or catastrophe striking us. Though I failed at most of my nobler aspirations, this is one that I seem to have under control for now. Ten days after reducing the dose for J’s med, we are in one piece, and it’s not too bad a piece at that. We have, in spite of a significant hiccup last Tuesday, managed to make another successful transition. Indiana Jones, eat your heart out!
I suppose that the older I get, the more I will ask myself how I ended up here, and in this way. The landing has been less than skilled or graceful, but I think -in hindsight- I haven’t done too badly. Keeping J busy and focused is harder now that he’s older, but that’s because…well…he’s older, and it is the normal course of things for him to not be particularly thrilled to be entertained by his mother.
I can tell that he is looking for wider, more open, more exciting possibilities because he now LEAPS into action to remind TGG that it’s time to go to the gym. Oh, I know we’ve been through similar cycles before, and I suddenly regain my “interesting” status in J’s eyes, but I think more and more this is changing. He still obsesses about certain things, like me dressing to be at home rather than to go out, and knowing where I am when we’re alone together at home, but -for the most part- J is very much a nineteen year-old who finds himself in the unfortunate and awkward position of spending way too much leisure time with mom.
Quite honestly, I think we’re both too old to be in each other’s space as much as we are. When I look at my friends’ Facebook pages, I see that their children are entities increasingly more independent from the mothers, and I wonder “how does that feel?” Then it hits me that I will never really know.
Isn’t that strange? I know I’ve said it before, but once in a while it sinks in again, and again, and again…there are things to which we, as parents, and J, as our son, will never really have access. It is so…normal…to us that we are a three-person unit from here until we start dying off that I hardly ever stop to wonder what that middle-aged renaissance would be like for me. What, I wonder from time to time, would I DO with myself? Which of the things I aspired to would I take up and run with?
It’s not an itch I have. I don’t really long for a different life, you know. It might seem that way from time to time, but what I really long for is to make the best with this one while I have the opportunity. It’s almost, I’d say, like the usual hypothetical “I’ve just won the Mega Millions in the lottery. What do I do now?”
And the cup of tea is spent…and I just remembered I need to get some Whistle While You Work, Walking Wounded, pffts and pumpkin from the store. Better write them down now, before things get REALLY cryptic.
(PS: if you guess what the first three items are, you are welcome to join me at the grocery store next week. I can always use a good diviner, cryptologist, and bargain hunter.)