Car parked in driveway, dusk settling around us. Food in our bellies, our livers and pancreases working harder than ever to dilute the grilled catfish and gin and tonics into usable calories…
“So, what’s the plan?”
Stephanie: “Uh-oh. Are we in our mid thirties and officially out of juice?”
We are. Getting drunk and pulling stunts has lost its appeal and hauling ourselves out of lawn chairs requires a sort of grunting and not just a little scuffling of feet trying to get a purchase on the deck.
We’re getting older. Not old. Just older. Two of us are pregnant. Two of us are moving to China. Two of us are planning a wedding (sort of). Two of us have moved far enough away that traveling is just more effort than it’s worth. The band’s breaking up. It’s hard to watch. It’s hard to reconcile. Just a few years ago, my body would have ignored the metric tons of gin passing through it and would have just jumped in that stolen grocery cart being pushed by someone full of whiskey and laughed long into the night.
Now I’m worried about taking multivitamins.
Where is the rite of passage for the thirty-somethings? Our twenties have all these significant mileposts: graduating from college, moving in with boy/girlfriend, moving away from home, making our first disposable income… but the thirties… they turn in rather than out. And now we are here… the late twenties having slipped away under cover of night without so much as a goodbye note. We thirty-somethings are filled with routine and tendencies towards security and safety. We are ritualized and ordered. We smile quietly and run our fingers through our hair when we talk. We don’t make as much noise as we used to.
I guess the next logical thing is kids. Except, we’re only just starting to have them. We are, by necessity, peeling off and reconsidering our alliances, making new ones. Ones with people who know things about childhood development and who are available at 6 am. We’re trading our beer cozies for baby rattles and it feels… normal. I have to wonder about my parents who had me nearly ten years earlier in their lives than my friends are having their kids. I was born when my mom was 24. TWENTY FOUR. What was I doing at 24? Being an idiot. Abusing myself. Working for the weekends. Hanging out in great clusters of friends. NOT raising children.
Which ultimately leads to the question: If I’m not having kids, what AM I doing with my life? Whereas kids once sounded like needy, codependent things, they now sound like fun playthings, things that make you want to get up in the morning because they love you unconditionally, things that enrich your life, not just suck the life out of you. All those notions have been turned on their heads. Intellectually, of course. I mean, in my head it all has been turned around. Has my heart been turned? How many cute babies do I have to see before my loins ache to house one of my own? Apparently, I need more convincing. I am not compelled. Yet.
What is this thing I need to do? Write a book? Get some sort of traveling done? Get a degree?
I laid in bed this morning at 3 am wondering about birth pains. Imagining the different intonations each of my girlfriends’ primal screams would take on. I had cramps, so I imagined my own birth pains. I thought of my struggle with endometriosis, of my mother’s same struggle with it, of my sister’s, I thought of the twins that have occurred in my future husband’s family, I thought of the twins that have occurred in my dad’s side of the family. I thought of the miracle that it would be if my tiny frame, my small runt body of the litter, ballooned one day to house another set of look-alike babies. And of the days of labor. And the joy. And the mounds of laundry everyone always talks about. And the things those children would teach me. Teach us. My new husband and me. Would we last? Would I prove to myself that I could do it? Would my weaknesses get the better of me? Am I even meant to labor like that? It seems like after everything else I have inherited, physical and mental, that I should not have to endure such pains to create a legacy of my own.
Sometimes my hands find their way to my bellybutton and they lovingly cup those ghost children. It is years of slouching and overeating that I hold there- not a baby, but indecision and boredom on cold days, and my compulsion to work long hours without stretching.
Sometimes I strain my eyes to see past the mountains in the distance, imagining that beyond them lies some place I have simply overlooked for the requisite amount of easy living and sunshine… and that, if I just squint harder, what will come into focus is where I am meant to be.