Zachary had his tenth birthday party yesterday, a week in advance of the day. In contrast to his brother’s party, Zach asked to have a few friends over, order pizza, make sundaes, and watch Episode IV. I told him he’s my new favorite child.
He’s going to be ten, which means I’ve been a parent an entire decade. I’m somewhat tenuously connected to the Me who came before this decade. She seems insubstantial, a wispy prelude lacking three-quarters of herself. Even the Me from Los Angeles or London is hopelessly ill-defined. It’s not so much that I disavow my old selves as they no longer feel particularly relevant.
Is this how it’s going to go on? I’ll keep piling new selves onto the old, strokes of self atop self atop self, with streaks and drips from below marring the finish. I wonder if other people are like this or if most people walk around each day with their feet firmly planted in the person they were at five and seventeen and twenty-eight.
The odd thing is that I have a very good memory, at least for dialogue. I can remember things people said to me two decades ago, the place, the context, the exact words. And I have long relationships. Many of you reading this have been listening to me quote you back to yourself since we were nineteen or twenty. My husband and I have been together for twenty years come this October. And we still like each other.
It could be that the surface tectonics change drastically while the rock center remains. Or maybe I continue to build my core self with bits of the person I am on any given day, exfoliating the rest with a piece of pumice after the shower. Who the hell knows.
What is constant seems to be change and growth. My change, my children’s change, and their growth. Their legs—they get so long. They stretch these things out on their beds at night and I don’t recognize those long limbs as belonging to my little people. I glance back at the babies I read The Night Pirates and it all feels so recent and so distant and I get that dizzy feeling I get when Neil deGrasse Tyson tries to explain black holes.
Baby Girl announced to me this month that she wanted me to read her Harry Potter, but that’s obviously impossible because she is not old enough except she’s starting first grade and reading Judy Moody and Ramona.
So last week—with summer nearing an end as it does every year long before I’m ready—the boys piled into Lilah’s room at bedtime, bringing with them wider chests and grown-up teeth and feet that I’m not sure they actually wash all that regularly. Coming back for perhaps the only constant in the universe.
“Chapter One: The Boy Who Lived.”