When I was a little girl, I’d visit my grandmother in Connecticut, and do nothing but read. I remember that we’d stop at the public library right after I arrived and I’d take out the maximum number of books allowed - 10 - and read them everywhere.
And then I found this. I remember it so well. I made a dollhouse in a drawer, cutting up postcards to make a fake fireplace, creating tables out of jewelry boxes, aluminum foil as a mirror. I played with it for hours, crouched over the desk it lived in, and my grand mother has kept it for the past 30 years. It’s like opening a drawer into my childhood.
I don’t even recognize myself - I don’t like making anything, or rather, I’m not patient enough for crafts. Where did this patient, creative little girl go?
And then one day this past winter I came home with new boots. They came in a large box, which my daughter asked to keep. She sat down and started cutting up magazines to decorate the wall, making carpet out of tissue.
She made a dollhouse. In a box.
There I am.
My daughter is away at her father’s for two weeks. This is good. I need some me time, some time to be a selfish human, do what I want to when I want to. Try to be bored. And I found this - something I had written during my mother-daughter “honeymoon” in Costa Rica.
During this trip, I was reminded of what I didn’t realize I (sometimes) felt:
…that you are not just my responsibility, my gorgeous to-do list, my hopes and fears embodied…
You are also someone entirely separate from me - a person to discover.
A girl who thinks, hums, raps, laughs. And you look so much like me these days…
…that in some way, I am rediscovering myself. It’s disconcerting. And wonderful. Scary too.
It’s not easy to bring you up (almost) alone. You’re a lot of person, a big human. It’s overwhelming sometimes.
Being your mother is the best kind of challenge…onward we go, and upward we grow, my little one.
- Guess how many boys at school like me Mama?
- How many?
- How do you know they like you?
- Because they’re really mean! And when boys are mean, it means they like you.
"The interesting adults are always the school failures, the weird ones, the losers, the malcontents. This isn’t wishful thinking. It’s the rule. My advice to any child reading this: If you’re particularly good at the violin or math, for God’s sake don’t let anyone find out. Particularly your parents. If they know you’re good at stuff they’ll force you to do it forever. You’ll wake up and find yourself in a sweaty dinner jacket and clip-on bow tie playing “The Music of the Night” for the ten-thousandth time in an orchestra pit. Or you’ll be the fat, 40-ish accountant doing taxes for the people who spent their school days copping a feel and learning how to roll a good joint."
- the bloody fabulous A.A.Gill on how school ruins our children. I love him, I love British humour, I love irreverence. Read it and cackle, whether you’re a parent or not.
This morning the parking attendant near my office stopped me as I was paying. He’s moody, so I never know if he’s going to smile or growl at me.
"I admire you", he said.
"Why is that?", I asked.
"You have a child and you are alone", he answered.
Way to start the day.
(I know he meant well, but the only pity I want is free babysitting. And more vacation time. And free wine. And a chef service at home. And a housekeeper. That’s all. )
The other night as we were getting ready to go out to dinner, my 9-year old daughter walked out of the bathroom with black smudged around one eye:
- Are you wearing eyeliner?, I asked.
- What’s on your eyes?
Then she asked which one of my tops she could borrow and wear to dinner.
Here she is, trying to tie my sarong the way she has seen me wear it. She’s still young enough to have to stand on the bed to see herself in the mirror, but I can see it…the beginning of a grace that hints at what she will be - a woman - instead of what she is now: a young girl.
We travel to leave our lives behind. We buy tickets and board planes to places we hope will tear us from our daily routines. We shed layers of clothing, insert ourselves into cultures we know nothing about, and wait to feel different.
The language we use to describe our lives says it all: we “get through it”, we “survive” our hard weeks, we “make it” to the weekend. When did this become an endurance game?
I booked this vacation mainly to spend time with my daughter before she sprouts into confirmed pre-teendom, but also because we both needed a break from work, from schedules, from winter.
We have a good life. It’s just that my mind is wrapped around it so tightly that I forget that there can be a sunset like this one happening somewhere in the world at the same time as I’m scraping 3 inches of ice off my windshield.
Today as I finished my last surf, I realized that being away has allowed me to escape not just my daily routine, but myself - the me I have to be to meet the demands of my life.
I travel to leave my self behind.
I can feel my body relax, but it’s my mind I’m releasing from a rictus of shoulds, coulds, hows, whys and whens. Because if I don’t let this careful balancing act go every once in a while, I fear I may actually get stuck being…the woman I spend much of my life being.
Leaving her behind is the ultimate luxury. And so is realizing that this side of me is alive and well.
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.
(Sent to me by my dad, so he can’t be so bad.)
“When we all go to heaven we’re gonna have nothing to do…it’s HEAVEN. What will we do!! When we get there there’s nothing to DO, there’s no restarting!!!!?”.
(An-almost-9-yr.old’s existential panic attack)