“Remember when I slept in the big bed in the room with the orange curtains and it was always light and you sang to me? I think I was 5 or maybe 3 or maybe 4 or 2 or 1. I loved that.” She curls up next to me. And I wonder about this child. Orange curtains? Not in my Design on a Dime. Always light? Perhaps, since all the stars need to be aligned right and the noises have to be set at the right level and all other variables must fall into place in order for this particular child to fall asleep. Singing to her I buy—or, rather, what I call “singing” which is actually in the CIA memo on acceptable torture. The whole age thing has me worried, though. Is she talking about a past life I don’t remember? She does this a lot, this 3 year old. She says, “When I was 7, I liked to play baseball, but now I’m a girl and I don’t.”
I’ve been telling people my age recently. Not that I’ve ever hidden it, but most mothers with children the ages of my children tend to be, um, generationally challenged. They don’t remember Bonanza or Buck Rogers, but they do remember Jem and the Holograms. In other words, when I tell them my natural hair color is “grey with brown highlights”, they seem shocked. It’s easy to shock people who have barely left puberty.
The conversation has been coming up because of this fourth baby I’m considering giving birth to. (Strunk and White would be appalled by that sentence.) “Are you going to have more?” they ask. “Well, I’ll be 37 when this baby is born. That may be it for us,” I answer. And then I watch their faces try to compose themselves around blustered embarrassements like, “Oh, I never would have guessed! You’re that old? I mean, that’s not old, but I would have thought you were a lot younger.” I’m going to start bringing popcorn to the playdates because I quite enjoy the reactions. They almost always follow up the initial spluttering with something like, “Oh, I have a (friend, relative, woman in the Bible) who was much older when she had her first child. She was like 40 or something.” Yah, so much older.
I actually don’t mind not being young. It’s comforting to know that the teenage boys are not, in fact, looking at my vericose veins. The teenage girls are, but I think I’ll tatoo “Dangers of Pregnancy” right above them and call it a public service announcement. I like having a mortgage, a car, and a hobby. Have you ever noticed that young people don’t have “hobbies?” You have to hit a certain “joie de la mort” stage before you can have a hobby. I like hobbying. It reminds me that I will never be the best but I can be good enough and that I don’t have to earn money doing it. It means I can stop at any time without changing my identity: it’s just a hobby, not a definition.
I love that age is so fluid for the currently-3-year-old. She believes she has been a grownup (which might be why she wins so many arguments with me) and that she was, yesterday, only 1. And maybe I’ll sew those orange curtains for her before she’s 5. We can call her ‘prophetic’ and create memories after they’ve happened.