In which she gets a life and tries to live it
Well, there you have it. We’re up to date. All that’s left now is to tell you what’s been happening lately.
As I write this, Steven has just started Grade Seven, close to the age at which my own story began. He’s on the verge of becoming a teenager and that’s hard to believe. I can’t quite get my head around the idea that I could have a child of that age. Will someone please tell me what the hell happened?
I’m sitting here looking at the badges I need to sew onto his school shirts, wondering how I can possibly get out of doing it. I’m no seamstress. I can cook and bake and iron reasonably decently, but sewing is beyond me.
That little voice I heard all those years ago, the baby who told me I would be okay before he was even born, has grown into a smart, sensitive young man with size-nine feet – someone I look up to, figuratively and literally (he’s already taller than me, and it’s only going to get worse). I had a warm, fuzzy moment the other day when I heard one of his friends telling him he’s got such a cool mom. I liked that. I’ve never been cool before, and I suspect I am now only because the other moms are Tupperware Tannies over forty-five –flipping ancient, when you’re twelve.
High school is just around the corner, and yeah, I’m terrified. He will probably go to my old school, which is going to be a bit of a mind-fuck for me, if you’ll excuse my French. I’ve been back there a few times, for school variety concerts and so on. It’s smaller than I remember (much like my entire summer wardrobe from last year), but besides that it’s like stepping into a time warp.
My old locker is still in the same place, I swear, still with the same graffiti on it (“Die, Yuppie Scum” and Joan Baez prose about goats). That same old tree is still standing in the quad – the one I used to hide my pregnant belly behind. Weird.
I’ve been into the girls’ bathroom and stood in the very same spot where I told my friends I was pregnant. Standing there with my eyes closed, the smell of Jeyes fluid in the air, I could see the ghosts of those giggly girls. And I remembered the girl I used to be. I feel a little sad, for some reason I can’t quite fathom. I don’t miss that girl. She wasn’t happy – she was terminally self-absorbed and kinda irritating. But I am grateful to her for everything I have become. I think she’d be proud. I think she knew it would be okay. I remember standing in that bathroom all those years ago and feeling like I wasn’t alone. Like somebody out there was watching out for me. And somebody was. Just as I can sense the presence of that Teenage Tracy here today, I think she could feel me – the me I am today – that day in August, 1993. Far from finding it disturbing, I find these emotions pretty comforting.
I wonder if the teachers will remember me when I take Steven there to sign him up?
I don’t want him to go through the shit I did but, realistically, it’s likely he will. I hope, I pray, that when it comes time for me to help him deal with life, I will remember what it felt like for me. I don’t know how much of a difference that will make to him, but I can try. That’s all we can do. And hope our trying is enough.
It dawned on me this week that a lot of what Steven will be going through as a teenager is going to be new to me. I stopped being a teenager before I turned fifteen. I went straight from just-out-of-childhood to some kind of weird quasi-adulthood, almost overnight. I never did the stuff sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds do. I’ve never been there. It’s going to be totally foreign to me, and I hope I don’t stuff it up too badly for him. Will have to let you know how it goes.
Maria is five years old and in Grade R. She’s already talking about Big School. I picture her in pigtails and a school dress way too long for her, and I want to cry. My last baby, almost going to school. Things change when your children go to primary school. From that very first day they’re moving away from you towards their own lives; you realise one day you don’t know everything about them anymore. You feel old. Don’t laugh. I’m twenty-eight, but feel much older. Well, kinda. Mostly I just feel ageless (not timeless, which I think has something to do with Botox). People ask my age and I usually need a calculator to work it out.
Before you have children, you’re the star of your life – The Me Show, with everyone else being the chorus. Then you wake up one day and the bastards have cancelled you and stuck you on the Series Channel. You’ve been reduced to recurring guest roles on other people’s shows. And the weird thing is, that’s okay. Really, it is. What you give up is nothing compared with what you gain. If you don’t believe that, you just don’t get it. Even if it sounds corny. Just can’t be helped, it’s true.
The rest of my family is doing well, too. Emma is now the proud mother of a happy four-month-old boy, Thomas. She has an excellent case of neurotic paranoia going on, good enough to rival my own. She’s a fabulous mother – I look at her and see how I should have been doing it all along.
Being an aunty is really cool – all of the fun and none of the poo.