Wednesday, October 14, 2009


"She had just learned that afternoon that she was pregnant . . . She was twenty-five then. How can she be seventy-nine now? It occurs to her that she thought she would always be . . . oh, thirty-two. She would grow older, but she would be thirty-two. She could be ninety, but she would still be thirty-two; and she would set the table and all her family would come when she called, the children bumping into one another as they came through the kitchen door . . ."

That's from Ordinary Life: A Love Story by Elizabeth Berg. I read it while I was lying by the pool in Hawaii, and it brought tears to my eyes. Suddenly, painfully, and probably especially since I was so far away from my children at the moment I read those words, I had an awful sense of how soon I am going to feel that way - assuming, hoping, that I am one of the lucky ones who lives to seventy-nine.

It's been a series of cold, gray days in the week since we've returned, and though there have been some definite high points (my 10-year Hope reunion, another hilarious 5-year-old soccer game, an equally hilarious book club meeting), I'm ashamed to say that I'm a little depressed. A little . . . slow. A little too aware of how immediately I'm right back into the tedium of the everyday, of how, already, the vacation seems like a distant memory. How it's hard to picture my life being any other way than it is right now.

Yesterday, Annie actually spit in my face when I went down the sidewalk to re-re-remind her of the boundaries for riding her bike and scooter. Today, she had a little friend over in the afternoon and they spent two solid hours bickering and not-sharing. Jemma's begun doing this THING where she jumps/thrashes her legs up and down in frantic motion to threaten an impending tantrum and it drives me crazy. I can't quite get the rhythm of this fall. I'm one step behind with the house, the groceries, the non-stop flow of paperwork that comes into this house on a daily basis. Already, the skin on our hands is cracking and our lips are chapped. I need to get all the winter coats out, and I just haven't. I need . . . a vacation after my vacation.

I come back to that passage, though, and instead of letting it frighten me, I take it as a rebuke: to remember, again, that each cold, gray day is fleeting; to notice the high points; to realize that I will not, indeed, every be thirty-two again.

So I notice Jemma's smile of great joy and awe as we do The Hokey Pokey at gymnastics this morning. I make sure to record her idiosyncrasy of the moment: her inability to conjugate verbs in the past tense, and her creative solution of adding the word "did" in front of the present-tense verb. "I did eat that all gone." "I did give Annie her shoes." "I did fell (smell) that flower."

I go outside and take pictures of Annie riding down the sidewalk in all her no-training-wheels glory. She doesn't fall once. I curl her hair for her school pictures and walk her to school in the crisp air. And when she asks random question #4986 and #4987 ("Would I still be able to walk if I didn't have one leg?" "Would I still be able to walk if I broke my neck?"), I tell her it's complicated, but when she looks in my eyes and says, "Try to explain it to me," I take a deep breath, and I sit back in my chair, and I do.

I guess this is thirty-two.

1 comment:

  1. So beautifully written, Stephanie. The details bring this to life. You're a wonderful mom, woman, writer...

    You've captured my feelings and thoughts, too. I don't know what it is right now, but I'm also one step behind on EVERYTHING. And, I am trying so hard to pay attention to the smiles and giggles instead of the constant food throwing, tantrums, hitting, chapped lips and hands that we have too. But, it's a challenge everyday!