A beloved, elderly relative caught me on the phone the other day for a five-minute chat about my new baby. In my exhaustion, I asked her how her son was. Her dead son. Even worse, I got my names confused. I first asked about her long-deceased husband, then corrected myself to inquire about the well-being of her dead son. I love this woman. I am not a monster. I am just exhausted, and my current view has eaten all of my brainpower. Needless to say, my view is really limited.
When given the chance, I scroll through social media and see lots of posts captioned, “my view for today.” Friends, colleagues, family — they are seeing some incredible things out there. Some are tropical. Some are mountainous. Most are breathtaking. Here’s mine: It’s my view tomorrow and the day after that. It’s my view for the foreseeable future, and trust me; I can’t see much these days.
Sometimes my view includes background information — toddler feet in rapid motion, dodging around the periphery. Sometimes it’s obscured by hands — jealous ones, sticky ones, overtired, energized ones belonging to two curious siblings. Three kids under age four. These are my views.
Friends and colleagues ask me, When am I “back”? I, too, ruminate on this burning question. When will my mind/body/spirit be returning to work and the world? To projects and meetings. To dinners with earrings. To being responsible and timely in my replies. I’m not sure. Because today, this is my view. And for better or worse, this view can be all-consuming.
I’ve heard this view plays tricks on you. It’s gone next year. It’s gone next month. It’s gone tomorrow. This view goes so fast, in no time I’ll be removing training wheels, hosting a sleepover, and researching colleges. Before I blink, one of them will be haggling for more screen time, and another will be late for curfew. The same kids who learned to walk like, yesterday. Then all of a sudden, I’ll be tearing through my purse for a clean tissue because everything in my hands is snotted and soaked, and I grossly underestimated my visceral reaction to the high school principal welcoming us to graduation on a sticky afternoon.
Wasn’t it just last year my oldest started preschool where three hours of his day remained largely mysterious? Now he’s a pro. I can’t turn around without discovering his new pants are already short. It’s ankles all the time around here.
And what of his little brother, who — I swear — was just posed the very same way?Now a middle child, he speaks to me in sentences that are eerily mature from a two-year-old’s mouth — when his uncalibrated voice said “Mama” for the first time what seems like a month ago.
And you, Lady, at my breast for long drags of time, have already outgrown everything in your drawer. I’m not ready for you to pull the next punch. I’ve barely processed your birth.
It’s deceiving — this business of time contortion. Never try to reconcile it. I want to fast forward; then I want to rewind. I don’t know what the hell I want. Terrible twos, threenager, fuck-you fours — regardless of the stage, my train stalls in the most difficult stations, then swerves back onto the express track. When one of my brood gets sick, the night drags like molasses — my chest tight as a drum between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. as I pause for the next yelp on the monitor. I pray for vomit-less cribs, low fevers and the relief of daybreak. I feel as though it will never come. Yet the years get swallowed up whole. The math doesn’t compute.
Every so often, I scroll past a breathless cityscape that leaves me nostalgic about the Manhattan views I devoured during my salad days. Then I look down at you sprawled across my lap. You look defenseless. You look home. And I’ll probably never again have the chance to examine you for such long drags of time. I sprinkle you with kisses and you graciously accept them. From what I hear, the time will come when you’ll brush me off and run out to your friends who are honking in the driveway. That will hurt. A lot.
I’ll come out of my bubble. I’ll rejoin the masses. I’ll try to never, EVER ask about dead relatives. I’ll catch up on that new hit show or learn of the next tragic shooting in an acceptable amount of time so that I, too, may blast the gun laws. I’ll be back. And I’ll be better. But for today, this is my view. So as I would with the view of the pedicured toenails and daiquiri against the Hawaiian sunset, I’m going to enjoy it.