4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
I’m a melancholic birthday girl, and it shows.
I think my kids picked up on the impending doom of my birthday and my sad-sack state, because they were straight up punks for the week leading up to my birthday. The last thing I said before reading my dramatic bedtime selection from Frank L. Baum’s Wizard of Oz on the eve of my birthday earlier this week may have been, “Are you really going to act this rotten? Because tomorrow is Mama’s birthday and you’re already ruining it. I will go away tomorrow and this is what I will carry with me!!” (Cue Mommy Dearest music.)
February always gets me thinking about craptastic birthdays. Like the one when I turned six and no one came to my birthday party for the first hour because they all went to someone else’s birthday party first. Or on my twenty-first birthday when all my friends were too busy or ill to play so I went to bed early. Alone. At about 9 pm. Did I mention it was my twenty-first birthday? (Sigh.)
And so yesterday morning, the kids were rotten again. Grumpy and irritable and slow and blech. On my birthday!!
We dressed in our coats, mittens, hats and boots. I yelled, they staggered through the snow to the car. And as I drove that windy little cut-through road, the narrow one they never plow, I pulled to the side to make room for a crazed woman in a fancy SUV barreling towards us. And BAM, her mirror snapped my mirror, we were thatclose. Time. Stood. Still.
She stopped and looked in my window aghast at the horrified faces of my kids and my shocked and annoyed birthday face peering right back at her, inches away.
Then I shook my head and waved her on. What with the snow banks looming on either side of the road and the proximity of our attached mirrors, there was no room for opening doors, aggrieved words, and so on. No room.
My minivan of children and grumpy Mama drove on. We caught our breaths, slowed our hearts back down. And I turned on the radio for my birthday song, to see what this year could possibly bring, what birthday wisdom could be found on the first song I hear on my birthday.
The song on the radio was almost over, all bang, bang, bang and bam, bam, bam. Like Katy Perry’s and Chris Brown’s wayward love child. No birthday gris-gris there. But ah, the next full song. There was a message there, and it was Fun.
You swore and said,
“We are not,
We are not shining stars.”
This I know,
I never said we are
Because this is exactly how I felt, with my bent back mirror and my naughty (albeit adorable) children, and my sagging, aging skin and visions of disappointing birthdays past. Not shining. Nothing shining.
If you’re lost and alone
Or you’re sinking like a stone.
May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground.
And I finished driving the going-to-school kids to school. I passed the remaining ones on to an amazing babysitter with genuine hugs and kisses from Mama. I did an exercise class with a bunch of busy, hard-working women. And we laughed at how difficult it all was, at how good it felt to be in our collective skin, flexing our muscles, stretching our spirits.
I went home, finished cleaning everything up, and then grabbed my birthday itinerary for the day, made for me by my husband. I remembered who I used to be, things that I liked to celebrate, ways I liked to treat myself. I reveled in it it.
As the commuter rail chugged towards Boston I shed my Mama-mode, fielded calls from friends and sisters.
There was a decadent mani pedi. Loads of shopping paid for by a handful of gift cards. New prescription sunglasses with my birthday coupon. A quick drink of really good wine with an old friend who just happened to be in town.
Then my husband and I walked to dinner with a stop at the Lindt store for a great big bag of truffles. He had picked a restaurant known for oysters (even though he doesn’t eat oysters) just like on our first date when he picked a restaurant that had sushi (but he didn’t eat fish.)
My head is on fire but my legs are fine.
After all they are mine.
Lay your clothes down on the floor,
Close the door, hold the phone,
Show me how no one’s ever gonna stop us now.
I may have clicked my heels a few times. I definitely flirted with my husband and said outrageous things like, “I so do not look bad for 44!”
When the waiter said, “Your dessert of fresh berries is on us.” I may have replied
drunkenly flirtatiously, “My dessert will be on you?” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)
Life is always that way. You can always start from a melancholic place. But you can also end up holding your husband’s hand and marveling at how lucky you are to have four such amazing, healthy, happy kids.
You can begin with a crappy fifth birthday but end up with a Facebook page covered with sweet well wishes from the kid who sat in front of you in seventh grade, your high school band teacher, the first kids you ever taught (who are now nearing forty themselves), neighbors throughout your life, far-flung family and the gal-pals who support you in the school halls and the pick-up line.
There’s that knee-jerk response to the gloom and doom of birthdays and aging and February. And then there is the glory of celebrating the things we love, marveling at how our parts chug on each year, aging like a piece of beautifully polished wood furniture, growing stronger, smoother, and finer over time, if only we were willing to see it that way.
May we all find a way to more often choose the glory and the marveling over the gloom and doom. May I. (Even without the benefit of a good manicure and an afternoon of shopping.)
‘Cause here we are
We are shining stars
We are invincible
We are who we are
On our darkest day
When we’re miles away
Sun will come
We will find our way home
No one’s ever gonna stop us now.
~Carry On by Fun