â€œCool,â€ one little boy says. â€œIt would be SO FUN to fly away and not have any parents. We could do ANYTHING.â€
â€œLike what?â€ I want to know. Watching a grin spread wide across his freckled face.
â€œLike STAY UP ALL NIGHT!â€ he says emphatically, waving his arms about at the possibility.
The magic of that idealized independence hovers in the air.
â€œYeah, and we could eat candy for every single meal,â€ another boy chimes in.
I remember that time, before grown up. That time when days sometimes felt like years. When yesterday was so far off it hardly mattered. Now grown-upness saturates the air around me like a heady perfume: replacing the oxygyn of whimsy with the dioxide of worry.
Maybe Iâ€™ve been feeling this now more than ever because death has pressed close up against the periphery of my life, or maybe it is simply because Iâ€™m in my late twentiesâ€”and this is the time when most young people invariably start feeling old.
Talking with my sister on the phone the other night, we agreed, when we were eighteen we knew it all. At least thatâ€™s how it felt for me. I was at the top of my game at eighteen: ballsy, headstrong, self confidant, and completely invincible. I wrote reams of poetry, jotted pensive philosophical notes in the margins of my books, read Shakespeare and Whitman, and regularly skinny dipped in the ocean. I knew everything then. Iâ€™d take up conversation with anyone. No argument was too complex, no social challenge too awkward. I attempted almost anything: rock climbing 1000 feet above the Mediterranean, sleeping with men I barely knew, volunteering in an HIV positive community in Harlem, jumping from fifty feet into an abandoned marble quarry filled with still green water. I had nothing to loose.
Now, ten years later, I am humbled. My heart each day feels the breathless immense weight of Love. Now there is everything to loose.
It seems like instead of seeking challenge like I did then, challenge finds me. The sum of my experiences, like a few small crusts of bread in my pockets, do nothing to feed the hunger of the beasts I now face. Over and over I find my words come up short; my hands empty. Then it was all about pushing the envelope: how wild could I be?
Now it is about other, fiercer, more tender things.
Navigating the terrain of love, seven years in (this month, our anniversary); making new meaning in the context of near death; finding words to express even a small sliver of the immense protective love that comes with motherhood.
I wouldnâ€™t go back. I love the challenge of now: the tender grace of meeting someoneâ€™s needs unconditionally, the fierce affection that comes with having woken up day after day after day next to the same man, or the ease that comes with starting out again, for the fifth year, with a class of children. But some days, especially the long ones, when my heart feels worn and scattered like a handful of sea glass, I get nostalgic for that time before DH, before Bean, before a career. It would be nice now and again to feel that rock-solid certainty that comes with inexperience.