My daughter’s recent birthday has ignited my memory of being her age. Her intonations, tics and tricks are so familiar to me. The pouting, the scary emotions that overpower her sometimes, her otherwise infectious enthusiasm and mostly good nature that result from a happy home and mostly good natured parents who try their best. I remember trying all on all of those moods and attitudes I see her working through myself, like outfits, or hats.
Besides being my daughter, Zoe is this dimension of my own childhood self, just as I, as a mother, am a dimension of my mom’s mothering self.
I have my baby book that my mom made. The title on the cover is “Your Baby Age 0 – 7.” I look at it a lot lately, in sadness and in wonder, because the idea of the book is such a contradiction to what I thought was her lack of sentimentality in later years. It’s filled with details about my lost teeth, my doctor’s visits, my first words, and upbeat descriptions about each of my birthday parties. I was glancing through it yesterday, looking at a photograph of my mom at 26 holding me in the front seat of the car coming home from the hospital, searching her eyes for clues about what it felt like to be her, holding me in her arms. Ready for the adventure and not knowing what the future would bring.
And today, as I look through pictures of myself bringing Zoe home from the hospital on my computer, with my hopeful and much less worried looking eyes, I simply can’t believe Zoe is the age I was when I was no longer my mom’s baby. This loop of life, moving through it sometimes seems truly miraculous.
Seven was also the age I turned when my youngest sister was born. I remember what our house on Linden Lane felt like physically, the light in the downstairs hall and the smell of concrete and Tide in the basement and how the house was changing. Rules, once rigid, were becoming less so. I imagine my mom was tired, maybe overwhelmed? Sugar cereal, once outlawed, began creeping in.
The office with the yellow, brown and green wallpaper was peeled down and painted, yellow I think it was. Or pink? There was a gilder. A slide. A changing table. We were intrigued, but after a bit, bored and ready for the next thing. Nine months seemed an interminable amount of time to wait.
I remember going to the hospital at the end of the summer to meet her, and it all seeming unreal to me, how tiny my sister was, and like, where the hell did she even come from? I remember we got to go to Sea World with my dad the week right after she came. I know it happened because there’s a picture of Lanie and I on my dad’s lap holding twin Shamus, pink faced and white-blonde haired. And I remember too that it was my birthday five days after Lex was born, and I was extremely pre-occupied with what I would get when we returned from Sea World. Because that’s seven.