I move from the kitchen with three small jars full of peanut butter banana smoothie and put one down before Sol, Zaviera, and Joaquin, singing out as I do, “Thanks, mom! You’re the best mom! We love you!”
Zaviera starts laughing and I wink at her. “You always do that, mom, talk to yourself as us.”
Me, “Well, someone’s got to translate the script properly.”
Sol is measuring the fish tank and discussing one of his favourite music groups with me, 21 Pilots, and in particular, this song that was in the movie Suicide Squad. He watched the movie with one of his best friends, Branson, the weekend past, and since then I’ve been learning all about it in great detail. Apparently there are a few characters Sol believes I will both appreciate, and possibly even like, even though they’re sort of villains.
“Like Harlequin,” he says, “the gross thing about her is she walks around in her underwear.”
Me, “That probably isn’t entirely of her choosing, so I wouldn’t hold that against her.”
Sol, “Exactly, she’s crazy because she’s under the control of a very bad man because she cared about him too much.”
Me, “Yeah, see, I totally get that. People can do some pretty crazy things when they’re vulnerable to the influence of a powerfully bad person.”
And Sol goes on to explain the process by which this Harlequin character was broken and turned into this kind of crazy that really isn’t so bad, and I use the time to clean the kitchen and organize my writing space until I can feel my brain stretching a little too thin with all of the listening and cleaning and the need I have to sit down and write because it has been a few days of hard work and great reward but no resting on the page.
“Sweetpea, I love you and I need to pause you because I really, really need to write.”
Sol gets it and he starts to reign in his momentum.
I don’t expect it to happen instantly, I’m just so proud of how hard he is working these days to respect my mental space. He understands that he has similar needs of his own and it has bonded in us in this new understanding and language of one another.
As he was talking to me about the movie, I was doing what I do in my brain:
I was thinking about an email from a friend wishing my last day of forty to be a good one. I was thinking about the exchange around time that occurred recently when Joaquin questioned me about what a ‘today’ was versus a ‘tomorrow’ and how to define the tangibility of the two.
I was thinking about how, since I live in the future, I just give myself double days of all important dates. So tomorrow I will both be 41 in Aotearoa and still 40 in California, and this amuses me.
I was also thinking about a day when I was about to turn 30. I had Sol strapped to my chest and I was striding alongside one of my longest known friends and we were discussing this strange business of me being a mother to a five-month-old baby.
“When I’m forty, I’ll have an eleven year-old son!” I looked at my friend and laughed because clearly, I was not meant to reach the age of forty, let alone thirty, but here I was, still not taken away by some unseen current at the edge of the world, only a few Mexican fisherman and surfers to notice I’d gone. In fact, I’d been anchored firmly in this world first by falling in love with Dan right before I turned 28 and then again, with the birth of Sol.
My mom used to say to me that I had a way of making big, sweeping changes in my life right before a birthday, and she’d point out the evidence, year after year, until I began to see it was true.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this time last year before I turned forty.
I let go of a lot of old ways of being in the world; beliefs I’d held about my place in it and my way of serving other people. It was a painful process but it was a clean, healing pain, and in it, my words and ability to speak freely about my days here on the page changed.
I took my grief into the garden. I used it to transform the house. I battled it out in my lungs with illness. And eventually the nature of the grief began to change. It began to run clean and pure and I began to feel the joy of it, the great thank you.
So, today on the eve of my birthday here in NZ, I think of my mother going into the long labour on Clement St. in San Francisco, and I think of the big changes sweeping through my life, and I smile knowing that she knows this, and I hope she smiles as she feels my deep thank you for this life she has given me.