Happy New You!



The other day was Captain Daddy’s birthday. Presumably because it comes on the heels of the holidays, Chicken Little was confused and spent the day saying “Happy New You, Daddy!” Only a 22-month-old could come up with such a delightful way to announce the beginning of another personal year. 

How many “new yous” are left for Captain Daddy and I, I wonder? Maybe because I am approaching 40, lately I have been feeling the weight of the doors which have closed behind me; the narrowing of the possibilities which define my current life.

Youth holds such potential. Even if you never do, in the back of your mind you know that you could always move to Argentina, quit your job and go to medical school, sell your stuff on the lawn and hitchhike to Europe, join the circus and learn the trapeze. (I never did any of those things in my 20s, by the way; I waitressed and earned two college degrees). By choosing other, more conventional things instead (which most of us eventually do)—marriage, parenthood, job, mortgage—those doors begin to close. Simply by growing up, we limit our options. The trapeze is no longer possible, even as a daydream. This process is as much reassuring as it is unsettling, which is why some people do it too soon and others never do it at all. (Other advantages of youth are taken from us with no choice of our own—beauty, for instance. Oh, the possibilities inherent to beauty, how powerful you were, how quickly you abandoned me. But that is another story). 

I don’t regret one single thing that has happened to me (well, maybe the loss of beauty, and one or two other things unfit for print), or any of the circumstances which anchor me now. But those closed doors lately linger like ghosts in my mind. The fact that so many of the Ys in the road that I have encountered were one-chance-only is only really clear to me now, in hindsight.

What forks in the road remain for me now? Many, I suspect. First there will be the myriad this-or-that decisions to be made in the process of completing the herculean projects of motherhood and marriage. Besides that, I imagine my “new yous” will mostly occur in the arena of the self: in the fine tuning of my days and my work. 

This, when you think about it, is pretty damn exciting. Perhaps even more so than the trapeze.

Popcorn



I sit down to write my first blog entry. I begin the first sentence. I hear, “Mommy, we want popcorn!” I get up. I pop popcorn. Never mind that it is 7:43 a.m. and some other mommies might think popcorn isn’t a breakfast food. I deliver the bowl to the requesting parties. I return to my office. I begin sentence two. “Mommy, my juice spilled!” I get up. I fetch paper towels to clean up the half-apple juice/half-water mixture which has disobediently escaped from the sippy cup. I replace the sippy cup with a new and hopefully more obedient one. “Tanks,” says one of the two requesting parties. I return to my office. I begin sentence three.

And now, allow me to introduce my children, Chicken Noodle and Chicken Little: co-conspiritors, helpmates and hinderances on my writer’s journey, depending on the day. Also included in the cast of my life is Captain Daddy, but he’s not here this morning, which is either a bad thing (if he were here he might possibly play with our chickens and give me some time to write) or a good thing (equally possible is that he would serve as judge and jury to the video/popcorn situation).

I predict that in just a moment, Chicken Little, who is not yet two, will lose interest in “Toy Story” and appear here at my desk, her little blond curls just coming to my elbow. “Up, Mommy,” she will say. I will lift her on to my desk alongside photos and seashells and stickers and to-do lists until she destroys something (the possibilities here are endless: the phone? The picture of her and Santa? A magazine contract?), at which point I will accept defeat for this writing session, having completed 200 words.

This leaves only 2,999,800 to go to meet Ray Bradbury’s criteria of success (he said that the accomplishment of writing one’s three millionth word would equate with achieving writing mastery).

Here I go…

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