Lila: “When I’m 15, how old will Gage be?”
Lila: “And Jo?”
Me: “13.” Thinking: Wow, that’ll be a crazy time. Three teenagers.
Lila: “What about when I’m 14?”
Me: “Gage will be 16 and Jo will be 12.”
Lila: “What about when I’m 89?”
Me, getting an inexplicably large lump in my throat: “Gage will be 91 and Jo will be 87.”
Lila, cheerfully: “That’s old, old, old!”
Mentally, I crossed myself out of that scenario. I understand that it’s unlikely that I will live to be 116. However, I stubbornly believe – absolutely believe, and refuse to consider otherwise – that my three children will be alive and well at those ages. And I may have actually cried a little at how desperately I hoped, for a moment, that they would still be friends then. That they would live close to each other, or at least visit often, and that they would enjoy each other. I also may have yearned, for longer than a moment, that they would share memories of home, of growing up, and that they’d be GOOD memories. Helping me make tortillas for dinner – Lila is a pro, rolling them uniformly flat and nicely round, just in time for me to flip one into the pan so she can start another. Carving pumpkins and roasting the seeds – something they look forward to from the moment the first leaf hits the ground in the fall. The many, many times that Jo laughs so loud and hard that all of us end up laughing loud and hard until tears roll down our cheeks.
I hope that they forget the times that I yell from the couch, spent, “Just go to BED!” or when I’m frantically trying to finish one task before starting another: “I don’t have time to play that / read that / help you.” Usually I’m okay with being imperfect – everyone makes mistakes, and I need a little store of time and energy that my kids aren’t allowed access to (or else I’ll lose it, I’ll just lose it). But when I see them in my mind, 85 years in the future, I just want sweetness in their memories.
I remember a time, probably after I finished college (I am the youngest of three, so the last birdy to leave the nest) and my sisters and I were kind of spread out – one in Indiana, one near Philly, me just coming home from school in the mountains. My mom said something about how she hoped that my sisters and I would be lifelong friends, be able to count on each other always. I nodded, but I definitely didn’t understand. “I have friends of my own,” I thought. “My sisters and I are all very different people, and we’re grown up now, so of course we’ll be farther apart.” Now…I want my kids to have each other in common. Even when they’re 87, 89 & 91. Maybe especially then.
To be fair, I’ve been crying a lot lately. I recently went off an SSRI that I was on for years, and after a month of SSRI Withdrawal (dizziness, nausea, wicked mood swings) I am adjusting to normalcy again. Whether I’m still in a transitional period or whether it’s part of the New Me, I have been crying about a thousand percent more than I did two months ago. Let me be clear: I don’t mind. It’s not sad crying, and I’m not unhappy that it’s happening. I’m just feeling things more deeply, and that’s all right.
Sure I’ve cried about typical crying things, like picturing my kids as teetering elderly (old, old, old!), and the Death Cab For Cutie song “Transatlanticism,” and doing a 5k walk with a very dear friend to honor those lost to suicide and to raise money for suicide prevention. Everyone there, hundreds of people, had this near-weepy look about them, their eyes never locking on anyone else’s for more than a second. Never have I been in a group of people whose hearts were so firmly connected, but whose eyes had learned to refuse to acknowledge it. Admittedly, we’d all have been a mess if they had.
But I’ve also cried at how beautiful the clouds are. And how gorgeous the changing leaves make my neighborhood – the whole town. I’m pretty sure that the bright, bold, ever-changing mural or reds and yellows and oranges is nature’s way of softening us toward winter coming. It’s a distraction from the end of summer, an effective one. And it makes me cry, and I realize that’s not completely typical. I don’t think that this phase of being overly-emotional will last forever.
But it’s okay. Everything’s okay. Some things are really, really sad. And some things are great. And that's life, and all you can do is smile, and cry, and be happy, and be sad, and tomorrow's another day. And on the off-chance that I do live to be 116 I don't doubt for a minute that I'd still try to gather my babies in my arms and rock them, and kiss their heads, and brush their hair away from their eyes and smile and cry. And I wouldn't be thinking about tortillas or the sharpness in my voice at bedtimes long past. I'd be thinking about how lucky we are, to have a new day each and every time the sun comes up.