One year ago, I was getting ready for my baby shower, nesting, ironing my curtains, resting my aching sciatica, walking my dog every night as if that would somehow bring the baby sooner, convinced that sooner is better, for everything, always.
I always wanted to be three steps ahead. When I was in high school I frantically wished for college, thinking all my problems would be solved with some freedom (turned out I was right about that one). In college I pretended I was in graduate school, shunning the gaucheness of the undergraduates and their social scene, hanging out with the PhD students who lived off campus. When I was 10 I ached to be 14,16,17 and have my first boyfriend and first kiss. When I was 23 and single, living in Manhattan, I stayed up all night, laying on my Ikea slat bed, with my laptop overheating on the mattress, reading strange granola stories about women who went to cabins in the mountains and gave birth to their babies alone under the moonlight, cutting umbilical cords with rocks. I wanted a baby – I felt it physically – even though I had just ended my first serious relationship and was going out every night, dating for fun.
When I was 5 I read the newspaper with my father, instead of my board books. When I was 9 I crept into the Young Adult Section of the library and then read every single book they had, over those long summers that only existed when you were a kid, laying in air-conditioning on a blue carpet, in our high ranch. Sprawled on a towel at the public pool. Chlorine, yearning. All I wanted was for time to pass, rushing me into that next place. Feeling like I was meant to be somewhere else, already, fast. I quit smoking cigarettes when my friends were just swinging into their pack a day habits. I was 21 and I threw my almost full pack of Parliaments onto the highway, the only time in my life I’ve littered from a car. I taught college courses at 24, the boys snickering as I walked in the first day, exchanging glances that I knew meant they would never listen to me, no matter what I did or how thick the rims on my black eyeglasses were. I’m almost 30 and I’ve had more jobs than most people have in a lifetime, two abandoned almost-careers. I don’t know what I want to to do or be besides a mother to my daughter. The rest will come, or it won’t come, because I still have a lot of time left.
When my daughter was one month old, I wished she were 4, 5, 6 months, thinking that she would sleep, I would sleep, life would be a dream; when she was 6 months, I couldn’t wait for her to walk. Now I’m ready for potty-training, preschool, family vacations where we talk and play games in the car, conversations. She’s not a year yet.
I think I’m ready to stop time, at least for myself.