Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Seven Years

So, it recently dawned on me....

What the fuck am I doing? I mean, really: what the fuck?

I was trying to explain to my parents the way I'm feeling now, and why I've been an inconsolable, stampeding bitch for the past five months, and why an ultrasound that tells me that it looks like my unborn babies are fine seems to have set off an episode of panic and speculation and worry about the future.

Finally, the idea formed in my head.

"But my life has been mostly a big party since 1999, and I don't want that party to end." An oversimplification, of course, and not nearly as shallow as it sounds, but that's it, nonetheless.

A wave of recognition washed over their faces.

1999 is the year I graduated from college and moved to the city. The greatest city in the world.

Doing so was every bit as charming as it is in the movies. Cute young heroine looks at apartments--one of them has a sagging floor that threatens to crash into the apartment below, so she steps gingerly over it with her cool shoes.

Cute young heroine buys pastry and eats it on 5th Avenue, a la Holly Golightly.

Cute young heroine gets invited to art gallery openings by boys.

And it's not just all a big party. Living this way seems to fill in the pieces of her life. Anger, sadness, and loneliness of the past all melt away. She is happy. She is fulfilled. She is not a misfit; she is a cute young heroine. She has interesting things to say and interesting things to do. She conveys information in a storytelling tense that sounds like the wife's speech at the end of the film version of Presumed Innocent. She vows she will always stay this way. Some people do, she tells herself. She will just be one of them. She will be one of the different ones.

Then.....

Cute young heroine meets one very special boy. They go see artsy movies, and then share the stories of their lives over Chinese noodles.

Cute young heroine buys a soft ice cream cone on a hot day and eats it as she walks down Broadway. A truck full of appreciative firemen call out to her as they ring bells.

A week later, as planes crash, buildings fall, sirens blare, and smoke pours through the streets, it dawns on her that some of the firemen from that truck are probably dead.

Cute young heroine and very special boy help each other through their pain, and decide to do so for the rest of their lives. Cute young heroine and very special boy become husband and wife. The last photo in the wedding book shows him twirling her around in the middle of the street, dodging traffic. Her dress swirls around her. That day, champagne flows again.

Husband and wife trade endless after-movie conversations for homemade Sunday brunches. They are every bit as happy, if not happier, but in a different way. He scrambles eggs. She pours orange juice in fancy glasses.

They wait and watch and hope. Each month, nothing happens. The doctor tells them, "do this." They do it. She goes under the knife. He eats his pasta sans cheese, too. She waves to him from the recovery room. A few months later, they are rewarded with a series of pink lines, and blue veins.

And then the shit really hits the fan. Actually, the puke. And she tells herself, "It's ok, nothing will really change, it's just one little baby, I'll bring it to artsy events and sit in the back."

Except it's two, and she won't.

"Your mother and I used to have brunch in the Village," said my father.

"And you thought, during the pregnancy, that, after I was born, you'd bring me, and she'd breastfeed over eggs Benedict with smoked salmon," I said.

He nodded.

"And then reality set in. Lug the stroller on the subway while the baby cries, bring diapers, negotiate tables with no space between them..." his voice trailed off.

I understood.

"So, once in a while we'd get a babysitter, and we'd go two blocks away and have a burger and a beer. You have to learn to content yourself with simplicity. Get past Rome and Amsterdam. Settle for a hot shower."

I understand.

"And if we want a third child," I began, "then maybe we can't take trips, and maybe we can't stay in the city. These are real decisions."

"Yes, they are. They're the decisions every parent has to make."

"But you don't have to make these decisions now," said my mother. "Things become clearer in time."

And then they said the line they've been saying for years, that they, too, probably heard a long time ago, and had to learn to understand, and that finally, finally makes sense to me:

"Before our children were born, we had fun. After they came, we had joy."

12 Comments:

Anonymous wordgirl said...

Hoo-boy! I hear you I hear you I hear you! It will be impossible to look back on the life before babies and NOT be nostalgic. Just embrace that reality and then embrace the miracle that you are about to enhance that life with two sons. Yes, it will be different. Yes, you will miss the old days. But the new days? The ones with the shrieking boys and books and sweet naps and the stolen moments with Ty as you look at these two babies? Sooner than you know, those days will be the "old days". Arabella, as I write this, I'm designing our ad in the yearbook for my oldest son's senior ad. Parents use baby pics and nostaligic quotations to send congratulations to their senior. I'm looking at pictures of Greyson and I realize he'll be gone in a few months. And I wish like hell I could be where you are right now. Full of aniticipation. Because...it goes by so fast.

You have every right to fear the loss of yourself as a woman and as part of couple who won't get out on the town as much. But I promise...this stuff that's coming up is good, too.

11:57 AM  
Blogger mamalujo1 said...

Yup, the "fun" as you've known it gets mighty rare. It's hard, so freaking hard. Life's changed now. I could keep going, but I think you get the idea.

I love that saying. It's so true.

1:39 PM  
Blogger Mignon said...

Yeah, but the old fun doesn't seem quite as much fun as frivolous to me now. Like I frittered it away. Now when I get a few moments, they are, well, not so much fun, but cherished.

I love this quote, by the way: "Get past Rome and Amsterdam. Settle for a hot shower." That's exactly what I mean. Sometimes a soak in the tub on a Tuesday afternoon can carry me through several days.

But, all that crap said, I really miss breakfast out. It's my favorite meal, and I love to putter around at a perfect breakfast spot, chatting over cooling coffee, stabbing the last couple home fries. That's what I miss.

4:14 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Harridan said...

I think you and I have both been pretty spoiled with the whole "Life is a party" thing. But remember how miserable we were when we couldn't get pregnant? That's gotta be worth something in the "con" column of pre-baby life. It's such a trade-off, and it's so scary to think about simply not having the freedom to do whatever the hell you want anymore. But it'll be totally worth it. :)

6:27 PM  
Anonymous mamatulip said...

It seems silly to say it out loud, and I kind of feel silly typing it, but I mourned my life before I had children after I became a mother. I really did.

It's worth it. I can be having the shittiest day ever and all it takes is a slobbery kiss from Oliver or a bear hug from Julia to set me straight. Or, like Mignon said, a soak in the tub to carry me to the end of the week. Suddenly the little things mean a lot more, you know?

9:38 AM  
Blogger Tink said...

I hope you don't mind... I copied and pasted this into an email for my Mom the other day. I didn't have the courage to link directly, just in case she wandered onto PB by accident. She said it was the most beautiful thing she's read in a long time.

4:20 PM  
Anonymous TB said...

I think this is my favorite post of all time Arabella. I hear you loud and clear.

Now off to mop up my eyes.

9:38 PM  
Blogger V-Grrrl said...

I was married for 13 years before I had children. THIRTEEN YEARS!

What do I miss the most? Not the vacations and fun stuff. I miss the kind of intimacy I shared with my husband when we were each the center of the other's world. It's harder to find now, it takes work to cultivate something that used to come naturally, and no, getting a sitter doesn't make it all come back.

What Mignon said about the frivolous moment vs. the cherished moment is so true. The quote you ended with about going from fun to joy is most appropriate. I've never felt as deeply contented in my life, even when my days were crazy. Having kids helped me get down to essentials and REALLY live my life.

8:45 AM  
Blogger Tits McGee said...

That totally made me cry.

I miss my pre-kid life a lot sometimes. Like v-grrrl, Hubby and I were together for a long time before deciding to have the kid, and what I miss most is the simple, quiet, selfish, togetherness we shared in those years.

But, oh, the delight and joy and unparalleled sense of belonging when you hold your child is worth it in every way.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

What I would have given to have the relationship with my parents that you have with yours. I wish they had told me how their lives changed when they adopted us. Chris and I were together 8 years before we got married and 11 years before we had Ryan, and yet it's hard to remember what our lives were like before we had children.

Just wait until Cute Young Heroine and Very Special Boy are standing together watching their two baby boys sleeping in their bassinets, milk dribbling out of their mouths and little butts up in the air. It is the best feeling in the world.

2:35 PM  
Blogger ptg said...

If raising kids is joy, I'll take vanilla.

2:11 PM  
Anonymous Heidi said...

I haven't ever heard the "Joy" saying before.

That must happen when they leave for college.

1:16 PM  

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