Sapo verde, part I (Me at 37)

Dear E.,

Sorry I have been AWOL – not that you even know, of course, but I feel such a loyalty to your future self, such a lifeline in these late-night letters. Life and work have taken over these past few months, and so have you. Gone are the quiet and slowness of your infancy, although I didn’t see it as quiet and slow at the time. Gone are those precious, lonely days that filled me up with words I had to pour out into the dark. Today, life with almost-3-year-old-you is a sentence that never ends. Just this afternoon, you lectured me on how to be a dog, on how a shiny computer made out of Legos can be programmed to fix a fallen tower of dominos, on why it is that Triceratops love to shake their butts. These days, when you drop off to sleep, I crash instead of writing.  But as we celebrate our birthdays, three weeks apart, I wanted to dust things off and reappear.

I know it sounds silly, but 37 feels different. At my lunch date with you today, as I sipped a glass of wine and watched indulgently as you colored a paper placemat, then covered it with powdery cheese, then sprinkled it with pepper (a decision you would later regret), I felt so relaxed, happy about the accumulation of years, grey hairs and maybe a little wisdom, maybe a little acceptance of my myriad shortcomings. I felt lazy, in a good way.

I felt mushy. I am, of late, one of those people who chooses a word for each new year rather than making resolutions. My word this year, I’ll admit, is love. Why? Because what I learned at 36 was that, after spending so many years yearning and searching for love, after finally finding it, after the significant miracle of finding and/or giving birth to people who want to spend time in our company, we lose sight of that very easily. We go on to what’s next. Our family becomes the foundation from which we dream, which is a good thing, but we have to be careful to remember that that foundation is a dream, too.

I’m not talking about the obvious things depicted so often in movies. I’m not talking about the career-obsessed parent who forgets about his or her children altogether and lets them be raised entirely by nannies or wolves. I’m not talking about a race to acquire expensive stuff at the expense of your children. No, I’m simply talking about the lack of focus that plagues almost all of us, even when we take time to appreciate our family every day, even when we’re decent parents and spouses. I forget how thrilled my earlier self, say age 22, would have been to see that I come home every single day to two people who want to see me, two people who know me inside and out. I forget that truly, anything else is just sprinkles on the cake. (Not to belittle sprinkles. Sprinkles are VERY important to you at almost-3. In fact, to you, the cake itself is someone irrelevant, as you showed earlier tonight when you ate all the sprinkles off your portion of my birthday cake, then scrunched the cake itself into little crumbs in your fists. But I digress.)

Today as I relished in the “happy birthdays” and “feliz cumpleaños” and “sapo verdes” – the latter being joking way that Spanish speakers pronounce the English phrase, and a Spanglish that perfectly captures the middle ground you and your family inhabit – I felt as though I had caught up to myself, in a way. I remember when I was 24, realizing that at that age my mother had gotten married; I still couldn’t imagine that for myself. Then at 25, I realized that was when she had had my eldest brother, and I couldn’t imagine that either.

Today, I have reached the age she was when she had me, and things are different now. Now, when she tells me the story of the day I was born, as she has most every birthday my entire life, I can picture it. I can imagine it. I could have a conversation with that woman, your grandmother at 37.

Maybe that’s why I felt like reaching forward to you today, to say hello. To say that even though right now I am always several steps behind you, chasing and juggling bags and reaching out and generating more greys, I hope that one day you’ll find me here, waiting for you.




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