September 11th was eleven years ago. I remember where I was when I watched the towers fall like it was yesterday–at home in Nanny’s living room. I’d recently graduated from college and was living there looking for magazine jobs in New York City. Nanny was at work. Her cleaning lady knocked on my bedroom door and woke me up a little before nine to tell me something was happening on the news. She had this huge tattoo on her batwing. I will never forget. Yet for something, feelings and imagery, I can bring to mind so easily–eleven years, that’s a long time–so much has happened in that decade to change me. The difference between that girl sleeping in on a bright September Tuesday and this girl here today is…is…transportive.
(It had to be, so much as happened to my life and the world not to be, to thicken skin, to soften hearts…)
Yesterday at Whole Foods I said look, babies, look! pointing to a parking spot on a hill. If your dad were there, he would have called it a “bad spot.” “When I was sooo pregnant with you guys I came here and parked there, there was no place else to go! I could barely walk up that hill! Someone had to help me!” I remembered what I was wearing, this red sundress hanging over my protruding body like a tent. I danced us around the car in a symphony of clicking and unclicking, lifting you guys from your stroller into the car seats like a pro. I thought of the woman in the store who had just tapped me on the shoulder, after watching me navigate the check-out line with my system of using bags dangling from the stroller as our wagon, and said “you are so efficient…” “Back then,” I added in awe of my own transformation, “I didn’t even know how to use the car!” Back then was only two years ago.
I see babies now–real babies, my dear babies, weeks old instead of years!–and I stop and stare. I go up to the parents and say, “how old??” marveling at these tiny pink creatures. I can’t believe you guys will be two in November. I do double takes of you while sleeping in bed. (You: There you go again, Mom, watching us sleep, creepy creepy creepy.) You’re so long and full, you take up the whole crib, you fill up so much space. (You always did though, even when you were tiny and pink.) I read longer books to now to you, you love “Down by the Cool of the Pool,” and you sit and follow and let me turn the pages (most of the time).
On Sunday someone said to me remember when we were at the Madonna concert? I blinked at her trying to remember, but only conjured tumbleweeds. My look said so, too.
“You were there–I remember!”
That was eight years ago. The Re-Invention Tour. And I have no recollection of being there, tenth row on the floor at Madison Square Garden. Zip. How did this happen? How does the mind hold so strongly onto things like parking spots yet lets other things go like a tree shedding a leaf?
The quote yesterday on my emailed “Word a Day”–which I signed up for my freshmen year of college, fifteen years ago–was this:
Our perception that we have “no time” is one of the distinctive marks of modern Western culture. -Margaret Visser, writer and broadcaster
Even now I sit and look at the clock and feel anxious. It’s 7:15 and you are awake upstairs and I have to go get you. We have a doctor’s appointment at ten in three hours and will still manage to be late. The thought of 7:15 pm. tonight when I bring you guys back upstairs and give you a bath and start the bedtime corralling feels so…far…away.
Last night I programmed my new coffee maker to grind fresh beans (the darkest dark roast I could find!) and brew at 6:05 a.m. (I didn’t do six, I knew I wouldn’t down here for it, I knew I would be late). While lying in bed this morning I heard the hum going off and I didn’t need to look at the clock. I knew it was 6:05, as scheduled. I laid there with my eyes open in the dark like a fly caught in a trap of all-encompassing time and said to myself, like clockwork.