I don’t ride on motorcycles anymore. I never was a biker babe, just rode on the back of my boyfriend’s during my bad-boy period, several lifetimes ago.
Now I drive an Explorer with french fries stuck down the seats and a soccer ball in the back. But that doesn’t stop me from competing with the BMW that’s trying to cut me off in the merge lane. “Momma,” my toddler son once scolded me from his car seat. “SLOW DOWN! Policeman give you ticket!” “Oh,” I replied. “You’re right. Mommy slow down.”
As I slowed down, I thought about all the things I don’t do anymore. I don’t play volleyball till 2 a.m. at the local bar. I don’t go to midnight movies. I don’t listen to blues and slow-dance till 4:00 in the morning. I don’t get drunk and climb up two-story balconies in a prom dress. (That was just once, and there was a good reason. I swear).
An old (childless) friend called me a while back to say she had won a sales contest and was going to Puerto Rico. Meet me there, she urged. Come hang out like the old days for a week. I can’t, I said. I don’t have a sitter. Even if I did, though, the truth is I don’t want to leave my son for a week, and I no longer want to bake on a beach surrounded by strangers and get margarita headaches. It has lost its appeal.
This reality hit me at midnight one evening as I was cleaning up my sick son’s bed, sucking up the vomit on the carpet with the Little Green Machine. What if I hadn’t married and had a child? Would I still enjoy jaunting off to Puerto Rico on a whim with a friend?
People used to tell me I didn’t look my age. Now I have become that trendiest of trends, the older mom. Once an old man behind the counter at the plant shop asked me why I waited so long to have a child. “Trust me, I wasn’t ready to be a mother a minute before I did,” I replied.
These days I take vitamins, work out at the gym for sanity, not vanity, and feel a stab of fear when I hear that someone I know has died in their 40s. It’s our children who remind us that life is always moving, despite our denial. I have finally realized that no matter how old I get, I apparently will never grow up. Even when I become an old lady who’s wearing a tiara with her shirt on backwards and two different-colored socks. (Wait, that was yesterday).
I love my life today. I love my husband and I love my son, “more than the sky is blue,” I used to tell him. Green, he would tease back. More than the sky is green. I love you “more than the clouds are white,” I would say. “More than clouds are yellow,” he’d shoot back. “Clouds aren’t yellow, they’re WHITE,” I would say, and we would both laugh hysterically. Our own private comedy act. Tip your waitresses.
I’ve observed all those beautiful, insecure teenage girls in the mall, tossing their hair and glancing around to see who’s watching them. I’m you, I wanted to tell them. They would never believe that the invisible middle-aged mom who walks by them now was once pulled over by the cops driving by her boyfriend’s house wearing only a teddy. (Just checking to see if he was home, and yes, they did let me go. If it happened today, they’d probably lock me up).
Recently it also occurred to me that in many respects, I am now living out my mother’s life. “Just do it and it will be done,” I caught myself saying the other day. Mom’s favorite expression.
I tried to explain this once to my husband, and he looked at me as if I was crazy. “It’s just that….I’m not a babe anymore, I’m a mom,” I said. “Oh,” he replied, in his usual articulate style.
Then my son came up to sit on my lap and give me a hug. “I want THIS mommy,” he said, pointing to me. And I realized that he shows me every day how much more there is to life than increasing its speed.