I often wax sentimental. Sometimes it’s the Italian in me; other times, it’s the big queen’s doing. Whatever the reason, last night, I found myself there. Full-on. The girls and I were in the car. I recently got A a new booster and E asked if we could switch sides. E has been behind me since taking that position when A was born. (Some baby safety groups recommend putting a baby’s car seat on the passenger side so it is on the sidewalk side when entering/exiting the car.) Now that the two of them are self-sufficient at putting on their buckles, I thought it would be OK. Truthfully, I would rather A on the side she’s been on both from a habit standpoint but also because I am in the car with her solo more often so conversation is more easily facilitated when she is diagonally behind me. But given that E, as the oldest, sometimes feels slighted and “neglected” in her terms “ever since SHE was born,” this felt like an easy win to give her.
I noted to E how she hasn’t been on that side for five years and how it felt weird to me to hear their voices coming from different sides. Driving along, I started to think about all of the times I drove in the car with just E. Those new parent days, when everything that one needed to do outside of the home happened between feedings, diaper changes and naps. Occasionally, on one’s nine millionth trip to Babies R Us, timing would somehow be off and there would be bellowing in the back seat. E wasn’t the easiest infant. I don’t often tell her that when they ask who was easier. But we often laugh that if A was born first, we would probably have a dozen kids.
As we drove down the dark and rainy Chicago streets, what took me further down Memory Lane was when E started to recall memories from pre-school. She brought up a number of moments that are clearly imprinted in her brain. Some were over five years ago now. That may not sound like much, but it’s more than half her life. She recalled when her friend fell off a playground structure and broke his arm. I arrived at pickup to see an ambulance and ran to the scene, concerned about what happened. She recounted the whole story as if it were yesterday.
She interestingly also remembered not only her best friends’ names but also her preschool nemesis. She and her were like oil and water from the first day that they shared together. Nothing changed over the three years they spent together. If anything, their dislike for each other probably grew. And clearly, it left a mark. E hasn’t seen her in four years but she remembers. I’m like that as well. If I had a negative situation with someone, it sticks with me. I’m like an elephant who doesn’t forget. I’m not talking just words exchanged or a basic argument between friends. Those things I can let go because of mutual respect and affection. But toxicity in the absence of someone I care for, I have zero patience. In that case, the person will be more dead to me than Anna Nicole Smith. We chatted a bit about the difference between friends and people we just need to tolerate because we have to share a space with them. It was as good of a reminder for me than a lesson for her. Sometimes there will be shitty people in your life. Stepping around them like the pile of dog poop someone didn’t pick up is a gift you give yourself.
What came next though was the deep sensation of longing for the past. I thought of how simple life felt not that long ago. We would either walk to and from her pre-school. In the early days, we did it with our dog. Our little town, so close to the city but bucolic in many ways, with our woods around the corner and lakes and ponds nearby. It was like a little bubble. I would always encounter someone on my daily excursions – bump into a friend at Starbucks, see a neighbor on a leisurely toddler stroll through the neighborhood, a dog friend in the woods. I miss those days. I miss their simplicity. I miss my babies being babies. Of course, there are benefits to kids growing up, self-sufficiency being a huge part of that. Sure, it’s wonderful that I don’t have to remind them to flush the toilet 75% of the time anymore. Now I have to monitor what they are watching on YouTube, even with parental restrictions on. Or I have to figure out why Apple doesn’t filter Brittany and Rihanna’s “S&M” even though I have filters on the ipad. A finds her way to that song like a moth to a flame. Every. single. time. Toilet flushing reminders were easier.
I love Chicago. It’s a fabulous city. We have amazing restaurants, a beautiful lake, fantastic parks and things to keep you busy year round. But I still miss home. I miss knowing a place like the back of my hand. I miss 6.25% sales tax that isn’t on everything versus the 10.25% sales tax on everything. Most of all, I miss the sheer number of friends and family that I had around me, the ease of seeing people. Living in a place where all of the kids activities took place in the same 4 square miles meaning you would always know someone somewhere. Now, we have kids in two different schools in two very different locations where people come from a ten mile radius or more. Playdates, on top of an already busy schedule of after-school activities, also depend on other’s schedules, what activities they have and where they live in this monstrous city. Chicago traffic is as guaranteed as crooked politicians. There is no rhyme or reason to it sometimes.
I keep in touch with a lot of people from home. It is harder to do now, of course. As I am taking this trip down memory lane, many of my contemporaries are in a similar situation. Even if their geography hasn’t changed, their kids have grown like mine. Life is more complicated for all of us. We all have full plates. I am still enjoying my time away from facebook. I like not getting sucked into a time vortex. I love not seeing as much political stuff or at least controlling more when I do. The thing that will eventually bring me back to facebook is maintaining a connection with many of the people who I indirectly referred to here. The reality right now is it is the easiest place to “stay in touch.” While I have reached out to more people in other ways during my month away, it’s simply not as practical with everyone.
I’m now off to the next parts of my day – a meeting at the school and then shuffling here and there for activities. I’m glad that I took this time for myself. I was going to do more laundry or Marie Kondo the house a bit more. But I really wanted time for me. For those of you back home who may be reading this, I miss you all! Know that you are often in my heart and mind…