I am sitting at the Chicago O’Hare Airport this afternoon, and an 11-year-old girl with a “Little Miss Bossy” pink t-shirt starts talking to me. I find out this girl spent a summer at camp, that this week she saw the Cubs wallop the Brewers (15-3), and that she is going into sixth grade in North Carolina, a state where I used to teach middle school language arts and social studies students just like her. Her Nana is a bespectacled and bemused woman with short blond hair and pretty dangling shell earrings. Nana listens patiently as her granddaughter, this spritely spitfire, rattles off how she is at the top of her class in math and science, and how she writes, produces and anchors the morning news crew at her elementary school, and how she loves Junie B. Jones books but not the Goosebumps series because the covers scare her. When the girl tells me she was born in 1998 and that she’s 11, I smile and say I was born 20 years before her in 1978.
Friendship Bread Muffins with hydrangeas from Nicole H."I'm not into kvetching. I'm into changing the world."Judy Chicago, artist, feminist, and rabble-rouser
She looks at me and smiles, and then says, “Wow. That’s back in the day. You’re as old as my mother.”
I laugh at her comment and then look at this spirited girl and think about how my life has veered a lot from her mother’s path, a path I really wanted to take when I was younger. When many of my college girlfriends said they didn’t want children, I always wanted a crew of kids. I even once mentioned the numbers five or six, which in retrospect sounds crazy.
But I live a very different life, one where I live alone with two cats, some plants, and a menagerie of beautiful, quirky friends and family. I am not giving up on maybe one day having a child, but I also know that I may not have children, especially if I cannot find someone who loves and adores me as much as he would a child. Some days this thought depresses me to no end. Other days I feel alive and liberated and ready to pack my bags for Austin or Buenos Aires. There’s a sweet pleasure in being able to direct one’s life without having to consult others, and I also wonder why I don’t have a spunky 11-year-old daughter who loves chatting with strangers in O’Hare Airport and living life to the fullest. I know I would be madly in love with such a child.
Despite these hypothetical thoughts, I am striving to dwell in the holy now. Admittedly, I sometimes compare myself to others, even though I know I’m where I’m supposed to be. I see my friends, almost all of whom are married, many with children, and I wonder how I’ve come to such a different point in my life. In the past several months it has been hard for me to see the benefits of being single, of being able to lead my life based on what I’m interested in alone.
Slowly, though, I’m emerging from this train of thought. When I was a little girl, I was a lot like the kiddo I met at O’Hare. And I’d want the girl I met today, and the girl I once was, to know that it’s going to be okay. That fairy tales with white knights and princes aren't real. That sometimes, in fact, all of the time, the heroine has to save herself. That story needs to be told more often.
I see a lot of possibilities, a lot of joy and necessary introspection from being quirkyalone. I am laughing and smiling more than I have in years, saying yes to people and opportunities I would have normally turned down in two seconds, and I’m excited to pursue some weighty and important dreams I had put on the backburner. I know that it’s often been easier for me to take care of others than it has been to take care of myself. I’m resolved not to do this anymore. It’s time to take care of business for myself first, so here goes nothing.
|This muffin is delectable and a fun twist on a homey staple.|
I’d also like to thank the following people for lifting me up when I’ve been down (this order is totally random, so just know I love you beyond numbered lists):
- Nicole H. for always being game for Mexican, funky brass bands, and impromptu dinner invites. You take care of my cats, soul, and fashion sense. You’re one of the reasons St. Louis rocks.
- Beth D. I cannot believe you weren't on the original list. You really have inspired me to take stock of my life and what I'm capable of. I love you so much and I'm so grateful I got to see you in D.C. Rock on, chica.
- Jenna Leigh for knowing when a strategic elbow to the ribs is in order to get me to wake up and smell the Capitol South roses. I love you more than you’ll ever know. You are definitely my sister from another mother.
- Stefani for knowing just the right things to say on the telephone. For encouraging me and laughing at me when my boldness goes where no woman has been before (or at least this woman).
- Shane, darling, I promise you when I get back from Kansas City that we’ll share some wine, plan our next trip to Little Rock, and something subversive for St. Louis. I adore you and I’m so grateful that you reach out to me even when I’m tangled up in myself. I hope you know how much I love you.
- My mom for listening to me sort everything out, buying me dishes, glasses, and bottles of really amazing red wines, and giving me all kinds of hugs, atta girls, and strategic text messages. You’re the person I’ve turned to time and time again, and I’m so glad you’re in my life. I love you.
- My dad and Jack (my mom's husband) for helping me lug heavy furniture down stairs and never complaining about all of the books I own.
- My granddad John Dee and my grandma Mary Ann. You two remind me what true hardship is since you’ve lived through the Great Depression, WWII, and the loss of spouses. Thanks for grounding me, lifting me up, and always making me feel loved way down deep.
- Elie, you remind me that life should always be lived with wonder and pizazz. I love your energy and spark and how incredibly thoughtful you are to so many, myself included. I’m so happy you’re back from Peru. I’ve missed you.
- My work colleagues for being truly inspiring and sassy individuals. I’ve just spent a week in Chicago with them, and I’m always amazed that I work with these people: they’re artists, gardeners, raisers of chickens, writers of great American novels and cat books, singer-songwriters, parents, sommeliers and foodies, kickass curriculum designers, generous souls, and master bartenders. While I work remotely, I love learning and working with you. Thanks for letting me into the club.
- Nicole F. for inviting me to lakehouse getaways, for wanting to learn rock climbing with me, and for always being so gracious with meals, time, and staple guns.
- Julia - you're so much more than my hair stylist. You are one of my muses, and I always feel refreshed after I've been in your chair. Keep being you!
- My writer's group - Mary, Paddy and Jack, I heart you big time. You write/tell incredible stories, remind me to write my own, and always, always make me laugh so hard that I almost pee my pants every Monday night. We have to continue this project during the school year. I would miss you too much.
P.S. “I never lose sight of the fact that just being is fun.” Katherine Hepburn