As a writer who documents my life weekly, the gift I get in exchange for the deadlines is a chance to look back on previous versions of myself. Because sometimes I feel compelled to look back, like I did last night as I tried to quiet the worries that come with full-blown adulthood — a worry much different from the ones I used to possess.
I am the mother of two young daughters. I am the mother of girls. I am a full-grown woman with almost half my life behind me and they are children, so young and fresh, running wild down the gravel road in rain boots in search of mud puddles. I look at them, the 1-year-old’s cheek flushed from the chill of the early spring evening, pointing to the sky and trees, digging her hands in the rocks, pulling on the grass, picking up dirt, trying to place it all, trying to name it all, doing what she needs to do to become the person she needs to be in this mysterious world.
The snow was blowing big flakes sideways across the prairie. The weatherman warned of minus 30 wind chills, and it was just another February morning in western North Dakota.
Dear Husband, I’m writing this at naptime because I have a moment, and I’m worried when I try to say it I’ll get interrupted for a snack request or to break up another argument over the toy purse. I love being a mother, but I miss you and me.
“Oh, you’re going to feel so old,” my husband told me as I explained my plan for the week to drive across the state to conduct a few writing workshops for high schoolers. “Just remember, you were their age once… like, 20 years ago.” And then he took a drink of his coffee, laughed and turned out of the room. Funny. Real funny. But 20 years ago? That can’t be right. Wasn’t I just 15 last week when I was grocery shopping and gave in to the nagging instinct to buy the Double Stuf Oreos?
There’s a print of a painting hanging in a frame beside my bed that reminds me of my Grandpa Bill. It’s a framed card actually, a watercolor of a rugged landscape, dark blue buttes forming a horizon against a gray and white sky. And below the buttes, in the foreground, the brush stroked green and beige, and then the artist, seemingly with the blunt end of his brush, came back to add a scattering of black dots. The cattle.
I sat on the floor in the basement and cried. I cried while my 3-year-old’s voice bubbled and babbled a narrative for her dolls as they navigated the new house her auntie snagged for them secondhand last week. I cried while my 1-year-old wobbled over to hand me her little karaoke microphone because it was my 150th turn, so I smiled and gave her another little “la, la, la,” because that’s what mommas do, even when they’re crying.
On the evening of Christmas Day, after all the gifts were opened, the leftovers were boxed up and the goodbye hugs were given, we arrived home to our house in the middle of nowhere to discover an open front door, a bag of scattered garbage and every boot in the entryway missing. In another setting, I imagine one’s mind might have automatically thought “burglar.” But in my life, my husband just mumbled, “Apparently the dog can get our new front door open” as he trudged with his arms full of bundled-up babies through that open door.
It’s the day after Christmas. I can’t see my floor. Every dish in this place is either dirty or awaiting its fate in the sink or dishwasher. Toys are making noises that I can't figure out how to stop, and I’ve eaten nothing but sugar cookies in the last 12 hours. And it’s snowing. A little late for a white Christmas, but I’m fine with that.
It’s no secret there are things in this life that are ruined by adulthood.