The other night I dreamt I was pregnant with my ex-boyfriend’s baby. This is impossible for many reasons, not the least of which is I haven’t laid eyes on him since 1996. (Oh, and my ten years of marriage, though I guess that doesn’t stop everybody from getting into this particular pickle).
Last night, Noodle and I corrected an overtired meltdown (hers, though some nights it’s mine) by crawling into her bed and singing a few lullabies together. It was a lovely mother-and-child moment, the sort that seems more precious to me now that she’s only days away from five, and mere months from Kindergarten.
But soon enough, the grand total of three lullabies I know became boring to my dearheart daughter. She wanted to sing something a bit more upbeat. A tune with spirit. We shifted to this ditty, something I picked up way back in my preschool-teaching years (which were, if you are wondering, roughly fourteen lifetimes ago).
When you wake up in the morning it’s a quarter-to-four, your mind starts humming, you head for the door, you brush your teeth, ch ch-ch-ch ch-ch ch-ch-ch.
Right away, Noodle took this song right out of my hands and kicked it up a notch. Perhaps–you might think after reading her lyrics–to a place that some grownups actually visit should they be awoken at a quarter-to-four.
You wake up in the morning with a toilet on your head, your toothpaste is poop, there’s pee in your eyes, you brush your teeth poop poop-poop-poop poop-poop-poop.
She had a good hearty laugh at that one. But she could do better.
You wake up in the morning and go in the yard, it’s snowing and there’s ten people watching, you poop in the garden, it makes the flowers sick poop poop-poop-poop poop-poop-poop.
I cannot understate the hilarity that ensued. But she could bring it even stronger than that.
You wake up in the morning with the King and the Queen of Poop. The prince of poop kisses you, you pee on the queen. You poop your pants poop poop-poop-poop poop-poop-poop.
I’ve always loved Noodle’s giggle. It’s like an old coffee percolator, bubbling up and erupting. But she still wasn’t done.
You wake up in the morning with the Wizard of Poop, the King and the Queen of Poop Oz turn your eyeballs into poop, your poop turns green poop poop-poop-poop poop-poop-poop.
“Noodle,” I said, tears spilling down my cheeks. “You are killing me.”
“Mom,” she said after awhile, between giggles. We both took a deep breath and gathered ourselves for a moment, exhausted by so much laughing. It was nearly time for me to untangle myself from her arms, turn out the light, kiss her forehead and let her fall asleep. “I have an idea,” Noodle said, as if it had just occured to her. “Now let’s sing something silly.”
Recently I took the chickens to the pet store. I envisioned a fun activity with which to fill a foggy February morning. I imagined the chicken’s delight at my suggestion of a goldfish to bring home—maybe two, if I were feeling particularly magnanimous. What a good mother I am, I secretly self-congratulated.
Chicken Noodle had other ideas.
Once we got there:
“I want a kitty!”
“How about a fish?”
“No, a kitty!” She leapt around in front of the kitten cages.
“But look at these pretty fishies, aren’t they wonderful?”
“I want a kitty, I want a kitty!”
I steeled myself for battle. Put on my calm reasonable voice. “Oh, baby, a kitty is a really big decision. I don’t think we’re going to choose a kitty right now.”
“I want a big decision, I want a big decision! Please, Mommy, can I have a big decision?”
How many times have I asked for something small and cuddly like a kitten and instead found myself in possession of something clawed and unwieldy like a big decision? Asked for autonomy, got responsibility? Asked for romance, got marriage? Asked for maturity, got wrinkles? Asked for a published book, got the job of writing and editing it?
At the moment, actually, I am kind of digging it. No, not the wrinkles. The book writing. It is prickly and unwieldy, that’s for sure. Not to mention speculative. But as once went a wise quote in an otherwise horrible movie, the name of which I’ve forgotten—“The hard thing and the right thing are usually the same thing.”
And you know what? I have learned so much already in the process of writing this book. Just this six-month project has made me a much better writer. I have learned a lot about myself, too. Who knew there was so much left to learn, ten years into this little writing career of mine?
A decade ago, I asked for something small and cuddly—the right to live as an artist, and forge my own path. And got something prickly and unwieldy—the right to live as an artist, and forge my own path.
Isn’t it beautiful?
But no, we did not get a kitten.
Last week I was invited to a middle-school classroom to talk about being a writer. It was one of those moments that made me go “huh?” and look over my shoulder for the real grown-up/real writer who was surely standing behind me. “Oh, you mean me?” said my inner ego, who is nerdy, shy and still only 12 herself. She violently fears a room full of eyes on her, not to mention that she hasn’t a single thing to say.