Picture this: a sprawling college campus with big, brick Gothic buildings. An ornate bell tower that sits atop the library, a kind of academic church. A small lake glistening underneath the April sun and a pedestrian bridge crossing over it. Seventy degrees, a cloudless sky. Fraternity row overflows with young, enthusiastic college students—all taut skin and big plans—gathered at the school’s annual pig roast, laughter and loud music and the smell of booze wafting through the air.
That was the scene that greeted me and my boyfriend a few weeks ago, when we went down to visit his son at the University of Richmond. And it made me want to be young again. To go back to a time when everything seemed to be ahead of me–to the night of my 18th birthday party, as I drove down a windy country road in a tight, hot-pink, spaghetti-strapped dress: a best friend driving, a Big Gulp full of Diet Coke and rum, and all that freedom rushing through the car with the warm July air.
As my boyfriend and I walked down Richmond’s fraternity row, all kinds of memories moved through me and made me long to go back.
The true mystery of life was not that we are all going to die, but that we were all born, that we were all once little babies like this, unknowing and slowly reeling in the world, gathering it loop by loop like a ball of string. The true terror was that we once didn’t exist, and then, through no fault of our own, we had to.
-Dan Chaon, You Remind Me of Me
A few things have recently conspired to get me thinking about beginnings:
Two people who are very special to me had a baby last week, and while they did not deliver on my request for a dramatic, blog-worthy water-break when we went out to dinner a few weeks ago, it hasn’t been a complete waste. I’ve been hanging with the new little nugget quite a bit and she’s melting my badass right off me. I’m smitten. That newborn-head smell. Those tiny frogger legs. Her wobbly little head, and eyes that speak of equal parts confusion, intrigue, and suspicion. So this is all pretty interesting, but please tell me that soon I’m headed back to that dark, warm place I used to live in—hey c’mon!—put that blanket back on me!…wait, where are you going with that boob?…oh you’re not really about to dunk me in any water, are you?That’s the vibe I get from her.
I’ve also been struggling with a piece I’m writing about my relationship with my mother, specifically how decisions that were made long before I was born came to shape the person I became. How my parents’ expectations about who I’d be—about what they needed me to be—affected the person I actually became.
At a certain point we all try to re-write our past by re-writing our future. We change jobs, we move, we end relationships— and sometimes the new narrative comes in the form of a baby. I was not able to do X,parents sometimes say, so I want my child to.My parents didn’t do Y for me, so I will do Y in outrageous measures for my child.If only they’d done it the way I will do it, things would have been better for me.
***I’ve been thinking back to where it all started for me and this little blog. Y’know, all the way back to October (when I was still doing the e.e. cummings thing). Thanks to everyone who has read and supported me, especially those who’ve reached out to tell me when something resonated with them. For a writer just starting out, you can’t know how much it helps to know that my words are landing somewhere. Happy New Year everyone.***
the other day, my blonde-haired blue-eyed 7 year-old charge looked at me and said, “what do you wanna be when you…” and there he stopped, an impish grin forming across his sun-splashed summer face. he knew i was already a grown-up, but he also understood that being a nanny isn’t a response to the question of what you want to be when you grow up. babysitting is something you do, not something you are. and though he didn’t want to offend me, he did want an answer to his question. he thought about it for a moment and then said, “well, besides this, what do you want to be when you grow up? i wanna be an engineer—so i can make roller coasters.”