The nature of the things we do

I’m heading off to work this morning. Standing on the subway platform among my fellow commuters, fellow travels, I feel isolated. I know we all do. I feel the day spread out before me in a hazy expanse, with time points as sign posts: at x, have coffee, keep drinking coffee until y, because after that you won’t be able to sleep. Make sure to do n, contact q and b, resolve that one thing of many that’s been dragging on for weeks. Don’t get distracted. Leave work at v, to get to the studio by r. Solve for riddles along the way.

Time points like sign posts guide me home at the end of the day. I’ll miss dinner but be back for bedtime. Come up with a new installment of the Prince of P’ssou story, don’t forget to add in Karen and Arcee and Super Hero C. Where were we last? On a ship, after stocking up on supplies at the fresh markets in New York. We’re on a ship heading for the land of P’ssou. The Prince hasn’t been home in many years, and only I know what he’ll find upon his homecoming. I can’t tell if C wants to be the hero of the story or the sidekick, I can’t tell if someone should fall in love with Karen or if they should just all be grand friends. It’s a balance and I walk the tight-rope between adding typical fairy story elements, and trying to have it be strictly a 21st-Century adventure saga meets morality tale. I should write down the words to The Singing Butterfly Song, I always lose track while I’m singing the last verses of the night, and C says “don’t forget Karen and the Prince of P’ssou and Super Hero C and Arcee!” And then I work them into the verses in some way they’ve never been worked in before, but I can’t fool C, he knows when I’ve veered off course, much like the Prince of P’ssou’s ship could do on the way to his home island in some unknown sea.

There’s the saying that people say to you when you’re a parent. They look at you with a smile filled with memories, filled with their own experiences and sadnesses of parenthood, remembering the infant face of their dear ones, they look at you, upon your child, and (say it with me) say “they grow up so fast.” At the very first you don’t know what they’re talking about, you have an infant, you are so tired, sleep deprived, covered with puréed carrots, but then slowly, or perhaps all of a sudden, you realize that yours is now walking, now a preschooler, now studying advanced physics, and you say to other parents, you hear the words forming in your brain, you know how they sound, you don’t want to say it, but they spill out: “they grow up so fast.” I’ve been giving this some thought. We had a play date yesterday, C and I, and I know soon he’ll be riding off to his friend’s house after school, and I won’t be invited, and I’ll think how fast he’s grown.

I don’t think it’s true, that they grow up so fast. I think it’s everything else that happens that makes it all crazy. When I look at the past 20 years it feels like 20 years ought to feel, but at the same time it doesn’t. 20 years is both a very long time and not long at all. I remember all the feelings I had, all the times I fell short, all the times I felt just great and wanted to hold onto that gem of a moment for all time. Life takes up a lot of time, it’s good thinking to set a course but so easy to get diverted by something else. I think often of a friend who told me about a cup of tea she found in the microwave when she was home visiting her folks. She opened up the microwave to heat up a soup and there was this cup of tea. “Were you having a cup of tea, Mom?” She asked. Her mother replied “that was from two days ago! I made the tea, had to run and do something else, came back and it was cold, so I zapped it, and then got distracted again. Heat it up again for me, would you?” Her mom was not on the verge of Alzheimer’s, but was instead carrying out life. It’s distracting, it’s big, it’s all these little things, and it takes time to get it right, takes a lot of focus to keep it all glued together.

I’ve been feeling scattered lately. There’s all these pieces I’m trying to fit together, and lots of times I get distracted from these very real tasks by wondering why. Why do I stay up half the night writing? Why do I make a little theater show in Brooklyn? Why do I go to work? Make play dates? Muffins? Brownies? Breads? There are practical answers and impractical ones and none of them are quite doing the trick this morning, so I thought I’ll write it out. I’m almost at my stop. Time to line up my sign posts, my flags on my little slalom course, and take a flying leap into the day.

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