I opened my email this morning to a message from St. Francis Preparatory School reminding me that my 20th High School Reunion will take place tonight, 8pm, 350 miles away from where I am now. I won’t be there.
From where I am now. That’s the phrase that cuts both ways. On the one hand, there are the new facts of my life: I am 37 (not 16), the momma of two and wife of one (attached at the hips and lips); I teach college, Creative Writing and Literature, and have published a book of short stories (interestingly, the exact thing I told my guidance counselor that I wanted to do when I grew up—grew up, another phrase in contention, because most days, because of the rapid switcheroo of mood swings, I feel like some tantruming 3 year old ); I have a close circle of friends (not too many, not too few); I have dogs and ride horses (constant reminders that it is not, contrary to IT’s unpopular opinion, all about mad me); and to counter the cold gray lid of Meadville, I travel to warm, sunny places—Greece, Italy, and Jamaica (in let’s see, 6 days, but I’m not counting).
On the other hand, aren’t I exactly the same girl who locked herself in a bathroom stall one morning and, unclasping the gold kilt pin from her plaid uniform skirt, scratched D-I-E into her arm? Aren’t I the same girl dogged by IT and insomnia, up until 2 or 3 in the morning, thoughts racing, tumbling pell-mell over each other? The girl who called 1-800-DON’T CUT (a treatment program for self-injury) and, too scared to leave a message on the answering machine, hung up? (And who, ironically, spent a month at the same treatment program 19 years later.) And the girl who stood in front of the warped full-length mirror in her bubble gum pink bedroom, feeling awkward and big and ugly and fat, unable to look at her bandaged arms, wishing she could be invisible? Aren’t I the same girl ducking her head in shame and self-loathing, hijacked by IT into wanting to D-I-E?
From where I am now? The answer would have to be NO. Because here’s the crucial difference. My life is bigger than the girl alone with herself. My kids, for instance, who are, as I write this, tramping up and down the stairs, involved in some elaborate dragon-centered role play, their ferocious roars filling the rooms of this house (and in one of the rooms is me). Or last night, when my daughter took hold of a wiggly tooth, and yanking it out, squealed with such surprise and joy, then immediately shouted for me, Momma, “Look, I did it myself! Aren’t you proud of me?” Or this morning in bed, my son, all warm and snuggly in his sleeper, rolled over and kissed my hand, and said, in all smiley seriousness, “I love you, honey!” Or this morning, in the kitchen, in the middle of barking dogs and shrieking kids and a teetering stack of breakfast dishes, my husband pulled me against him, arms around me, and said, “I want you.” Meaning not only Let’s Screw! (of course, this, too), but I want you here with me, with us, in our life.
Or tonight. I won’t be in St. Francis Prep’s cafeteria drinking bad wine, trying to make small talk, and crawling out of my skin. Instead I’ll be home, with friends coming for dinner. Maybe I’ll wear my blue short sleeved sweater. No shame for the scars. They are what they are. On the table? Leg of lamb, tzatziki, potato gratin, and green beans. And my carrot cake—double-layered, pineapple walnut filling, cream cheese frosting—and because I am now here, I’ll even have a piece.