The other day, I was walking near my office building and I had one of those moments where you really see every person around you, and you think about how every one of them was once a tiny baby:that cocky-looking banker-type guy with the moneyed strut; that doe-eyed tourist coming out of the Midtown hotel, stopping to look at the flow of humanity around her; that elderly lady in the long fur coat, daring anyone to cross her -- all of them started out the same way, wailing and helpless in their mother's arms.
It seemed so unbearably poignant for us all to be walking around, in our carefully chosen outfits and the haircuts we went to the trouble to get on an already overly busy Tuesday. We're all so frail and uncertain, but we go through our little daily routines -- brewing the coffee and shoveling down our favorite cereal and using scented body wash, then riding the train pressed together with all those other grown-up children, all freshly combed and breakfasted -- and it's kind of sad of course, but in a strange way it made me happy, too, that we find all these tiny things that matter to us and we put on our armor of flannel or wool blend and lots of us have that fleeting thought that who are we really kidding, anyway? but still, someone out there loves us, foibles and flaws and all.
Felicity and I took a cab to church the other day, and as we were getting out, she peered over the front seat and said to the driver, "Thank you! Good-bye! I'm going to bring you a Valentine card on Valentine's Day!"
Sometimes I wish I'd started having children when I was younger, because I think in the grand scheme I would not mind having more than one child, but I would only want more if I could basically raise them one at a time. Like if I'd had a baby when I was, say, 23 (that child would need serious therapy, but never mind -- in this hypothetical I would be able to transfer my present-day relative wisdom and maturity to my mess of a self circa the late 1990s), I would now have a TEENAGER. And when that kid was maybe six I could have had another, and then Felicity five years after that (at the time she was actually born). I'd have had three kids before age 35 (as opposed to a passel of babies jammed into the waning years of child-bearing age, as it would be now if I woke up one day with a hankering for more).
I could MAYBE have handled that kind of spacing, even though the further I get from All Things Baby, the less inclined I am to dive back into that particular morass -- but if I were younger and less craggy/decrepit, maybe I'd be more keen on that kind of thing, and in this entirely fictional scenario I've got boundless energy, limitless funds, a huge apartment, and a closet full of jeans that do not give me Sad Mom Butt.
I mean, I suppose when one has a teenager and can see the light at the end of the in-home-parenting tunnel, maybe adding an infant to the mix is even less appealing, but on the flip side I could see how it would be truly great -- free babysitting, for one thing, and also, what better antidote could there be for the door-slamming MOM YOU ARE THE DUMBEST PERSON ALIVE moments than a fresh infant awash in baby head smell? Seems smart to me. Now all I need is a time machine to take me back to 1998 to implement this plan. I'll find my younger self boozing it up on the dance floor at a swing dancing club, wearing some flimsy thing that only a 23-year old can wear and generally acting like only someone with zero responsibilities and very little life experience can, and...actually, I think I'll just let her be. Why spoil her fun?
Actually, I have discovered one facsimile of a fountain of youth, and I am here to share it with you now: sledding. Dude, have you been sledding recently? Most fun thing, for real. The moment I position myself at the top of a hill on a slick plastic orange saucer, I lose my head in the best way possible. After the first snow of the winter a few weeks ago, we took Felicity sledding in Central Park, and it was like we'd walked into a Norman Rockwell scene: all the neighborhood kids lined up atop a wide expanse of lawn, shouting and laughing and throwing snow around, and the parents grinning and flopping onto garishly colored sleds along with them. The afternoon light slanted through the trees and it was cold but the sky was bright-perfect blue, and some tourists were taking photos of themselves with all of the winter fun as their backdrop. I smiled so much my face hurt. And as she whizzed down the hill holding tightly to the sides of her sled, Felicity called out to me, "I'm happy! I'm so happy!"