May 14, 2009

Here and There

I am sitting in the JetBlue terminal at JFK airport in New York. It is 9:00pm on a Thursday night and my flight is delayed. Until 10pm. I won’t get home until 12:30am. And I am lonely. There is a family waiting to get on this flight to New Orleans. It looks and feels like they have 13 kids and that they are all 3, but I think I might be exaggerating. You get my point though, there are kids and they are everywhere. Their mother is a shell of the woman she used to be. Sure, she still looks great – she is thin and her hair is a cute bob, but if you look closely, she has chocolate smudged on the shoulder of her shirt and I know I heard her say at least once, “if you don’t stop that right now, we are going home.”


Really? Are you really going to pack up all 13 kids, go back our through security, get the car from long term parking, cancel the vacation to New Orleans and drive back to Any Town, New York because Junior is rolling around on the terminal floor? I didn’t think so. You know you’re not, Junior knows you're not, and you know Junior knows you are not, but still, you are desperate, your nerves are frayed and if Junior does not get up off the floor, YOU are leaving all 20 kids (yes, they have multiplied somehow) in the JetBlue play space with their marginally engaged father and YOU are going to go home. And never see them again. Ever.


I have been there.  We’ve all been there. Still, when I am here, where I am now, alone in an airport, sans my 1 kid who sometimes feels like 8 kids, I miss that feeling of slowly being emotionally and mentally waterboarded by a demanding toddler. Or 13 toddlers. I miss the feeling of dirty little hands touching my face, or the tug on my pants leg, or the occasional random bite or scratch. Don’t get me wrong, when I am there, that place where if I am touched one more time with a dirty little hand, or I cannot believe you BIT me, I often wish I was where I am now. Sitting in an airport, anonymous and free to read a book or type on the computer and stare at the wall.


But, right now, I am here and I am lonely. It seems everyone, even the clean up crew, has a kid in tow and they are all cute. Their little cheeks long to be pinched and their tiny bow mouths call out to be gently kissed. I have to restrain myself, lest I end up in airport jail for the night. The headlines would be horrifying and I would be quoted as saying, “But his little butt called to me to be squeezed.” Surely, anyone who has laid eyes on a 9 month old butt knows resisting the urge to give it a playful pat is akin to heroin detox.


I had lunch today with a friend who is married but has no kids. He and his wife have been married for 8 years and they are discussing the matter. They want to have kids, but they are doing what we all did – freaking out at the prospect of doing something that changes your life radically forever, never to ever be the same again…ever. You know that scenario. Anyway, I told him that had I realized earlier in my life how much I would love being a mom, I would have started much earlier and had a lot more kids. But, I am weeks away from 40 and my husband is days away from 47 and it seems…impractical? Or maybe just insane to entertain the thought of doing it all over again. Sure, having a kid not in the midst of a hurricane and a mother dying is probably not quite as harrowing as just having a kid, but probably not that much less harrowing.


My friend quoted a line from a movie he had seen. He has no kids so he can see movies. Fancy art house movies with random violence and not feel it to the core of his being because all emotional reaction has been wrenched from the core of his being and been placed right out in the open. Does that happen to everyone who gives birth, I wonder? Anyway, it was beautiful and, of course, I don’t really remember it exactly because I was busy scarfing down my lunch. But, it was something to the effect that a man’s true love is a woman’s body and a woman’s true love is her first child.


And I tearfully nodded in agreement with a mouth full of spicy roast pork with string beans. The day I had Max and they put his squirmy little body on my chest, I felt, for the first time in my life, love at first sight.


And gone was the ruthless bitch who could watch any movie about any random child abduction or murder and simply say, “this is fiction and not real.” Today, I can’t even watch Law and Order SVU because too often a child is in danger or missing or dead or horribly abused. Fiction or real, stories like that hit my heebie jeebie, which, oddly enough, seems to be at the base of my spine. (I realize no one except my sister will understand what the fuck I am talking about here.)  


So, here I am, at the airport, stealing glances at other people’s kids, trying not to look like a nut job, anxiously awaiting my flight…which was just delayed another 30 minutes. I wonder if that mother is now wishing they had just gone home?


Anonymous said...

Wonderfully written, as always. The exact quote is from the movie Venus.

Peter O'Toole says to the young girl in the National Gallery while looking at a portrait of a nude, "The most beautiful thing a man will ever see is a woman's naked body."

The girl says, "And what about a woman... what's the most beautiful thing she'll ever see?"

Peter replies, "Her first child."

Laura Ferry-Jimenez said...

seriously, you need to find yourself an agent. :)

I feel the same, if I'm home my kids bug me. if I'm out, I'm all into other lil kids wishing they were mine (unfortunately for me, very rarely am I without my damn shadows). haha.

Beth said...

You are wonderful Claire and your writing is beautiful.