In my early twenties I bounced around jobs, with stretches of unemployment in between. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, and so I applied to graduate school and worked as a temp while waiting to start school again. I came to understand something fundamental about human nature, or at least my nature, that conundrum so basic cliches are made of it: the grass is always greener.
When I wasn’t working, I had all the time in the world. I had limitlessness in front of me and it must have loomed too vastly. I did nothing. I fretted about the fact that I was 22, 23 and doing “nothing.” I didn’t enjoy my free time because I didn’t have any money, and I thought I should be constantly looking for a job, or figuring out what my next move in life would be. I went to the beach, I took pictures of the suburban landscape I was in, I went to bars and met stupid people I didn’t enjoy talking to. I was waiting, biding my time until my real life would begin.
Then I’d start some job, and mourn the beauty of the day outside that I couldn’t enjoy because I was stuck inside some cubicle, some inside place. All I wanted was to go back to those endless nothing days when I was too busy worrying about money, too stuck in a rut, too frozen to do anything, something! Anything. Why didn’t I pack up my car and drive my way to Canada, to Alaska, work my way across America? Why didn’t I join the Peace Corps, save money for a round-the-world plane ticket? I had no kids, no job, no deadlines, nowhere to be. I should have hiked the Santiago de Compostela. I should have done something.
Having babies and little kids is like this. I know one day I will have freedom, I will have quiet space in my days and life. My daughter will go to kindergarten in one year. My son is almost walking. My babies are going, going, gone and never will they return. Never will I hold my son, his insane soft yellow hair against my arm. Squeezing his Fred Flintstone feet. Kissing his mouth. Staring at specks and pieces of his baby body. I won’t have any more baby.
I will wish to give anything to have them back. I see my future. I see older women around town, professionally, acquaintances. They are in a great moment of their lives, they tell me. Their kids are old enough to be almost entirely self-sufficient. They are away all day at school. These women, women like me, the ones who wanted and dreamed and wanted a creative life and to do things at the same time they wanted their babies, now get to enjoy a cultivated friendly, parent-child relationship with their teenaged or college-aged sons and daughters and then they can go away for a conference all day with no second thought. They are writing their books they imagined for ten years and ramping up their careers because they can.
But the truth is their time is peaking, peaked and post. The far side of childbearing years looks scarily older than I wish it would. By the time I have the freedom to come and go a little more as I please, I will be half-gray and rounder. I won’t be prime. I won’t be needed desperately in the world the way little children need, desperately and wholly. I will want, one more time, to possess the everything of the world, to spend the entire day with my daughter, no, school, you bitch, you can’t HAVE her. You can’t take her and make her sit and be quiet and take her day hours from me, no not yet. She’s my little buddy. She’s my magical friend and she’s magic because she’s not even four and the world is magic to her and that makes the world magic to me.
I want at the same time for time to pass and I want as strongly for it not to. I know if only I can live my days now, like I will want to when they are long gone, with the perspective of time, and the inevitable, I can be free. And I do sometimes. When I’m happy, that’s the place I’m happy from.
We just went food shopping. Everyone’s crying, everyone’s whining, I will never sleep again, Anna says to me, “Let’s buy the ‘ganic strawberries! Cause they’re good for me,” she explains, she is 100% innocence and beauty and as much as I love her at this moment I loved her as much when she was two and no, she will never be two ever again.
We are all going to die.
I should have traveled the world more when I spent a year doing nothing. I should have entered my empty days with the energy and excitement of someone emerging from a year at a desk job, from a prison, from their future of having children and responsibilities and waited for my time to be needed somewhere at a certain time.
I’m trying to do that now. I’m trying to remember what hasn’t happened yet. I’m trying to cry ahead of time for my lost babies so I can love them more than even the stars and back and more and “Mommy, I love you more than all the houses in California,” yes, even more than that.