This one, a gift from Luis, one of my best friends. Page one says, “Luis, a writer who has helped me write with this gift of empty books, disappeared for three years and is now where I can find him, on the periphery, in Mexico City. He bought this journal there, when last he lived there. It was a long time ago, by measures other than calendar – two children and an address ago for me, several addresses for him. And he is a father, now, also a parent.”
Most of my journals are hidden, serving no purpose to me other than to remind me how far I have come. That time passage has its advantages - in nebulous terms, such as wisdom - but concrete terms as well. (Furthering of careers, advancement in school, illnesses survived.)
When this other journal was penned, I had three children under the age of five and would attend high school football games regularly (husband is a coach). Parents of teenagers – looking at me with one wiggly, no doubt hungry and tired child in a Baby Bjorn, one crawling onto the laps of strangers, and one standing at the railing screaming at inappropriate football moments – they would invariably say “treasure every moment, it goes by so fast.”
I would say, "yes, but each day goes by SO slowly." I was at home, at the time - and they seemed... relentless... in the way that small children do. The gentle interrogator, stepping lightly, would say, “How do you do it with three?,” and I would (and still) invariably reply, "Lowered expectations.” The brave interrogator, if a parent of one or two or none, may also say, “What’s it like having three? “
Another response, unwavering, that I have come to rely on is, "It is always one more than you can handle, but you can never decide which one to get rid of any two days in a row, so it must be the right number.”
In print, and even in the telling - these all sound pretty smart-assed. I can own that, having that default as a personal flaw - but actually, they hold up to scrutiny. With no sarcasm imbued at all, I can look at each of those responses and... mean them. Still. (Though the aforementioned constancy of three-under-five has subsided somewhat.)
I do enjoy this ride - so, so much. Just maybe not, as some more Pollyanna-ish than me might profess, every single minute. Because - more truth - there are a lot of minutes in any given day. And many of them are difficult. And sometimes, the difficult ones are strung together very close.
I have a not-formally-diagnosed deficit of attention, sticktoitiveness, order. And I have insomnia, because sometimes I can only get the thoughts aligned at 3AM. When they no longer need to be thunk.
In that same journal – the craft-paper on the outside, unlined, smooth and not-too-hard, not-too-soft paper on the inside with onion paper cutouts as dividers – I wrote a list. I boxed it in. I wrote “x3. a magical, spiritual number. (and now, it is 3 am)” to the right of it. On the page before, I wrote:
“I hope I can instill in my children a practical sense of dreaming, of self-exploration that leads to a comfort in self-improvement – confidence to see “there” and build a path to it.”
The list itself:
Patrick was an infant, and there are pages are full of musings about him being all potential – wiggly, needy, hungry, busy, funny potential.
Annabeth was newly 3. Open, social, joyful. Quoted, on her play cell phone, as saying “Cinderella? Why are you being mean? I don’t want to play with you any more. Because you are boring. You are being sassy in that dress. And I don’t like it.”
Sebastian was five. Reading whatever he could get his hands on, wanting to be a scientist. Correcting me. Often. Asking questions of impossible depth. Expecting answers.
At 9, 7, 4 – they are still potential and promise. The descriptions of them at 5, 3, less than one... all still apply.
Blogging has taken over for my journal, for now. And 3AM still offers order, journal entries, lists.
And that list? It’s still all I could want for any of us, really. Wisely, I chose a husband that wants the same stuff - and helps keep the course when I veer. And so far, these small people around us seem to be doing a pretty good job with all those notional wants.I guess I've been paying attention after all.