¶ Twyla turned one, and there is something a little sad about knowing that I have seen my last days as the mother of an infant. Of course, there is a lot of good ahead: I am excited for the deeply weird magic of language acquisition, and for the way Simone and Twyla’s relationship is sure to blossom once Twyla can do more actual playing (though already they occasionally form a band together, as Twyla is more than capable of banging two things together while Simone strums her guitar or sings). I look forward to meeting the three-year-old Twyla will be in a couple of years. But while I know that many people don’t particularly like the baby stage, I do. I love furred, snuggly newborns, and smiling, clapping not-yet-toddlers, and I am all done with that, now, and it is vaguely wistful-making, no matter how content and delighted I am with our family and that family’s imagined future.
The actual first birthday celebration did not go quite as well as I might have hoped—Twyla wasn’t feeling well (cold, molars) and Simone had been at camp all day and was, frankly, a bit of a brat. I seem to hear nothing but what a golden, lovely age is five, but compared to four it is AWFULLY whiny. So much whining! So little listening! Am I the only one who finds this to be the case? I wonder often whether (or, more likely, HOW) I am doing this mother thing wrong. Parenting older children is so much harder than parenting younger ones, because the stakes seem so much higher—they will remember your decisions, your words, and underlying everything is the feeling that you may well be screwing up in deep, permanent ways. (Hey, childless folk! Come on in, the water’s fine!)
Twyla, who loves food more than is really seemly for a baby, was nevertheless entirely uninterested in her cupcake, flinging it on the floor and then staring at her crumb-covered fingers in disgust. It figured, I suppose, that this would be the one day my comically, exuberantly happy baby (she is basically the human infant version of Pinkie Pie, for you My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fans out there) was in a foul temper. I suppose this is one of the saccharine but nevertheless useful lessons of parenthood, that these events we invest with such importance are just days like any other, and are ultimately both out of our control and meant to be so, because as easy as it is to get wrapped up in the milestones of our children’s early childhoods, these events are not really about us, and yet not half as meaningful to them.
Anyhow, I now have a one-year-old, and though poor Twyla has gotten short shrift on this site, it has been a wonderful year, and I feel preposterously lucky to have ended up with this goony, sweet girl, whom I love beyond reason.
¶ On Sunday I took Simone to her first movie in a theater: “My Little Pony: Equestria Girls” (I keep typing “Girls of Equestria,” which sounds like a very specialized Playboy issue ). The theater was, surprisingly for a Sunday morning show, quite crowded, mostly with teenagers. (There was a pack of teenaged boys who came in together, causing the girls behind us to let out an excited squeal of “BRONIES!”)
Simone had been planning this movie trip for a while, and for some reason was intent on buying her own popcorn. She brought her wallet over to me one afternoon to have me count the coins to see if there were enough, and when there weren’t, proposed she pay for the popcorn with her library card. I assured her that it was my treat, but she was not having it, and finally got the cash together by selling some cheese to my mother at our last Happy Hour (50 cents a piece!) (the Happy Hour was at my mother’s, and my mother had, in fact, provided said cheese).
Popcorn sizes seem to have become grossly inflated, and we ended up with about four times as much popcorn as was actually required–which is saying something, as Simone and I can both eat the SHIT out of some popcorn. The movie was just the right length for a first movie, I think (1hr, 12 minutes), and Simone only said it was “too loud” once. I have sensory issues that can make movies in the theater unpleasant, and I swear to movies have gotten louder since I was a kid (Listen to me! Popcorn is to big! Movies are too loud! KIDS TODAY!) so we sat way in the back, which I think helped. As to whether Simone enjoyed herself, part of the way through, during one of the musical numbers, she turned to me and stage-whispered “I didn’t know it would be so awesome!” Also, she wants to see it again next weekend.
I’m not sure why we waited so long to take her to a movie, or were so sure she would be scared/wasn’t old enough to have fun. I was pretty terrified after seeing ET in the theater when I was young, so maybe that was part of it. But I remember going to see Splash when I was Simone’s age, and saying to my parents afterward that I wished it would never end, and I think I would have gone to that movie every day for a month if they’d let me. Splash wasn’t even a kids’ movie (though it did have a mermaid, obviously a selling point). At the risk of sounding crotchety yet AGAIN, I will say that there were more adult movies back then that were…slow. Shots have gotten so fast (a fact I remember my film teacher in college bemoaning at great length), and the visual pace so frenetic and music-video-like, and the expectations for effects so high, that it feels like movie storytelling is vastly different than it was twenty-five years ago. Which is fine! But a lot of movies are not great for the easily overstimulated, is what I am saying.
¶ I’ve been writing again. Technically I’ve been working on Book Number Two almost since my first book came out, but only technically—in a forced, desultory sort of way, in tiny dribbles here and there, with occasional (brief) bursts of inspiration. In truth, I was spent and exhausted for a long while, and then there was my pregnancy, and the drain of constant financial worries, and though it pains me to admit it, working on my second book was something I was doing because I felt like I should, and unsurprisingly I made almost no progress at all. I don’t know what changed; maybe I just needed time to let my poor brain lie fallow, maybe the several months I had of relative financial calm this year settled me a little, but suddenly I have my writing energy back, and it has been lovely to walk around with my head buzzing again, to be absentmindedly putting things where they don’t belong because I am worrying a paragraph in my head while unloading the dishwasher. I am SO EXCITED about this book, and so full of ideas. I’d forgotten what this feels like, both the delicious flush of writing a great sentence, and the misery of rereading a day’s work to find it completely awful, and if I am spending a lot of time hand-wringing over the state of the essay I am working on, well, that’s okay, because it’s awfully invigorating to be this challenged and engaged. Writing, if I’m doing it right, is the hardest thing in the world for me, but on a good day it feels like we are evenly matched opponents, me and the nebulous whatever I am trying to pin down.