i am twenty-eight

Katy Perry was singing “You’re hot then you’re cold! You’re yes then you’re no!” on the radio and Bear and I were driving towards the mountains on our fourth date. “I like your sunglasses,” he said, and when I glanced at his profile, it was adorably boyish. He was blushing faintly and his little smile was the helpless kind, where you can’t not smile. Everything is too good to not smile. I didn’t know anything about him except that he felt completely right and I felt completely right with him. I started singing along with Katy Perry, even though it was the first time I’d heard the song. He joined in.

We were yes! We were not even a little bit no.

look

I was twenty-three.

I had never made a reservation at a restaurant because I’d never, as an adult, gone to one nice enough to need a reservation.

Bear was twenty-five. That seemed well into the totally grown-up range. He’d made a reservation for our first date, even though the restaurant was not in fact very nice, and I was impressed with the casual way he gave his last name, like he was used to eating out. Eating out impressed me (I either made all of my own meals or got a slice of pizza somewhere). Taking a cab impressed me (they did that on TV but everyone I knew exclusively rode the subway). Wearing ragged New Balance sneakers paired with Cargo pants did not impress me, but I thought it was cute that he didn’t own any jeans because he thought they were too fashion-y.

“I’ll buy you jeans,” I said, indulgently. I felt lavish, magnanimous. “You’ll like them.”

I was pretty sure I could blow this guy’s mind—worldly table reserving and all.

*

A few days ago, we were driving on the highway in Florida, headed back to the airport from Bear’s aunt and uncle’s home, where his ninety-five year old grandmother lives, too. We finally made it down there, for the weekend, so that Eden could meet her.

Eden hates the car so much. “Babies love the car!” people say, speaking of the accomplished babies of legend whose parents are always fresh-faced and proud.

Eden started to cry the second her butt hit the car seat. And now she cries “Mama! Mama! MAMAMA!!” lifting her chubby little arms in an anguished plea for help. It’s a little bit heartbreaking.

We were running late, naturally, and there was no time to pull over and comfort her. Nothing short of freedom works.

“ABCDEFG! HIJK, LMNOP!” we sang at the top of our lungs. “THE ITSY BITSY SPIDER!! WENT UP THE WATER SPOUT!”

“MAMAMAMAMAMA!!!” she wailed.

2014-03-22 15.24.59

“I can’t do this,” said Bear, his face crumpling.

“Stay focused!” I said. “Keep driving!”

She cried for forty minutes. I was hunched forward. Bear’s face had gone tight.

“So,” I said, looking at his profile. “We made a baby!”

He didn’t respond.

 

I am twenty-eight. My birthday was earlier this month.

I have made a few restaurant reservations in my time, though honestly, I still feel awkward doing it.

I feel mostly same. And everything is different.

*

Bear’s grandmother looked sweet, dressed in pink, reclining on a pool chair in Florida, sipping her daily martini.

She repeats herself a lot. She asks the same questions brightly, curiously, clearly sure this is the first time.

“Your parents must be crazy about the baby?” she asked me, maybe fifteen times, when the conversation paused. I was a little embarrassed at first, answering again and again. But then I realized I liked it. I could shade my responses differently each time, to deepen our exchange.

“Yeah, they’re so excited about her!” I said.

And then, “Yup! She’s their first grandchild!”

“They’re really good with her. I love watching them playing with her.”

“My mom gets to spend a lot of time with us, and she’s so close with Eden. Eden reaches for her the way she reaches for me.”

“My dad was sure I’d have a girl, even though I thought I’d have a boy for some reason, and he’s all smug about being right. He’s an amazing grandfather. Eden thinks he’s hilarious. He’s like the baby whisperer.”

“My mother is really passionate about developmental psychology, so watching Eden is even more interesting to her than it would be for other people. She’s a teacher, too, now.”

“Yes, they are.”

Even if I wasn’t satisfied with my answer, I knew I’d get another chance. It was reassuring.

2014-03-22 16.11.28

Several times, she mistook Bear for his father, and she talked to him as his father. They are both big and bearded and gentle.

What must that be like, I wondered, to have experienced whole lifetimes, overlapping in an epic familial tapestry, fathers and sons becoming each other, generations blurring. It seemed to me in that moment, sampling sickening Campari at Bear’s Italian uncle’s urging, that there was something majestic happening here.

Age seems to have peeled away the superfluous details like names and dates and left the core of things exposed.

“She’s a precious baby,” she said, over and over. “You’re all so lucky to have each other. This is the best thing in the world.”

I have only been around Bear’s grandmother on a handful of occasions, but each time, I feel warmed by her. This time, I noticed that her eyes are blue. Eden’s eyes are blue, too, still, even though neither mine nor Bear’s are.

2014-03-22 16.11.35

*

 

We were twenty minutes away from the airport when I finally thought to turn on the radio. Christian rock blared and Eden stopped crying to listen. She grew quickly irritated and I changed the station. A guitarist playing Bach. She was intrigued. The whole car seemed to expand, breathing out in relief.

“In honor of Johann Sebastian Bach’s birthday month, we have a special program,” the smooth-voiced announcer informed us soothingly. “Johann Sebastian Bach was born in 1685.”

“Can we please do more music, less talking?” I asked her.

“Bach was once quoted saying that his success could be attributed entirely to his hard work,” said the calm, classical voice, “But of course we would disagree. It’s perfectly clear from his music that he was also exceptionally talented.”

“Seriously,” I said. “You need to get to the music. Right now. I have a baby over here.”

Eden made an unhappy sound, on the verge of an unhappier sound.

“And it is a testament to his genius that his music remains relevant today,” she said.

“I don’t know that I’d use the word ‘relevant,’” said Bear.

“Yeah,” I said, trying to think about what relevance really means, automatically agreeing because Bear is often right on a technicality.

“MAMAMAMA!” yelled Eden.

“Oh shit,” I said.

“Bach composed the bulk of his music between the years—“

As much as I wanted to know, I changed the station.

“My Spanish Harlem Mona Lisa…” sang Rob Thomas, with Santana behind him.

We froze, waiting.

Eden settled again, muttering to herself. Something about a certain “mama” and how that mama was neglecting to free her from the hideous torture chair she’d been strapped into. At least, that’s my guess.

But she was not crying. Santana had saved us.

The Florida highway went straight out, forever, pointing confidently to the rest of our lives.

And suddenly we were singing: “I would give my world to life my world, to lift you up! I could change my life, to better suit your mood…”

I put my hand on the back of Bear’s neck, the way I did on our fourth date. We smiled at each other. We would give our lives, to lift each other up. And the kid in the back, too.

We have a little tapestry ourselves, already. It’s nice.

It’s awesome.

It’s the best thing in the world.

Happy birthday to me! Happy birthday to me.

cheesecake

(cheesecake from my dad)

*  *  *

Happy birthday to everyone else with one in March! Any birthday epiphanies? I love those.

Unroast: Today I love the way I look in a wrap dress. So simple. Yet maybe a bit elegant?

Here are my birthday posts since I started this blog:

twenty-five

twenty-six

twenty-seven

33 Comments »

Kate on March 26th 2014 in family, life, motherhood, uplifting

33 Responses to “i am twenty-eight”

  1. kaitlin responded on 26 Mar 2014 at 12:00 pm #

    Happy birthday! I liked this a lot. I’m six months pregnant and this made me cry. Sometimes I look at my husband and feel so overwhelmed with love and memories (we’ve been together 8 years) and excitement to know our little girl.

  2. Emily responded on 26 Mar 2014 at 1:00 pm #

    Happy birthday. The best is yet to come.

  3. Ashley responded on 26 Mar 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    I miss reading your posts from frequently. Happy belated birthday! You have a killer smile, btw.

  4. Britta responded on 26 Mar 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    Happy Birthday! It is my birthday today and I am surrounded by friends with birthdays in March. I am reading your post and eating chocolate cake and feeling insanely happy.

  5. Darryn responded on 26 Mar 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    Happy birthday! A beautiful post. I appreciate your reflection on Bear’s grandmother’s memory and your interactions together. I’d never thought of it that way before – an opportunity to get it right. :)

  6. lacy davis responded on 26 Mar 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    My big march birthday revelation was that it is time to officially be a body-positivity blogger! inspired by your wonderful work, no doubt!

  7. Jade responded on 26 Mar 2014 at 3:10 pm #

    Happy Birthday! I was 29 last week and I’ve been reflecting on my twenties and thinking about the things I want to do before next March!

  8. Sarah S responded on 26 Mar 2014 at 4:48 pm #

    Happy Birthday! Being a (somewhat reluctant) Florida resident myself, I love your pictures and descriptions of the place.

    I’m turning thirty-nine myself in several weeks, and this sums up nicely much of what I’ve learned in those years (many rather tumultuous):

    Youth is overrated. Stretchy waistbands are not.

  9. R responded on 26 Mar 2014 at 6:21 pm #

    You look fantastic! Happy! Fantastic!

  10. April responded on 26 Mar 2014 at 10:11 pm #

    No epiphanies, but my twin (Erin) and I had the best birthday ever! We met up in Vegas, and our older siblings came too! Our birthday was on the 16th and we also turned 28! It’s so fun to think that around the same time we were all babies that came into the world, somewhere. And now here we are communicating across the country!

    Btw, your outfit in those photos is smashing!

  11. Esther Neema responded on 27 Mar 2014 at 2:20 am #

    Happy Birthday to you :)

  12. Kande responded on 27 Mar 2014 at 7:03 am #

    Happy Birthday! Your journey is so different from mine, yet in other words so similar, as I got married when my husband was 23 and I was 25, and had our first baby prior to 30 :) Anyway, I recently had my 40th birthday, and my epiphany was that I LOVED turning 40! My kids are old enough to be independent enough that I can concentrate on some “me” things; but young enough to still need me (which is nice – when it is able to be balanced with “me” things!). I am confident in who my real friends are and have no need to try and impress those I’m not sure about. And while from oh what? Maybe age 10 to 39 I was (while only ordinary looking, no super-model agents knocking on my door) somewhat vain in that I “had” to look as the most perfect version of myself as possible before anyone could see me ever – God forbid I ever forget eyeliner! – I now, probably similarly to the Andy Rooney speech re: women over 40, honestly don’t give a flying you-know-what. Really, not just “written on internet in faked bravado but really I rush to put it on” way. So for example, on the weekend I took one kid to a playdate with someone I don’t know (friend of hers from school) and spent time at my neighbours … without washing my hair, putting on make-up, and to be perfectly honest I am not 100% sure if I remembered to put on a bra. And I didn’t care about any of it! I just LIVED. It is FREEING being 40! You won’t miss the baby screams, you will miss the baby snuggles, but aging is awesome!

  13. Lynn responded on 27 Mar 2014 at 7:44 am #

    Happy Birthday!!!

  14. San D responded on 27 Mar 2014 at 9:57 am #

    Happy B-lated Birthday! In April I turn 65, and I can’t believe it. I have found there is a direct relationship between how old you are to how invisible you become in our society, and THAT is very freeing. I love causing mischief as an invisible person. I hope as a writer you keep a journal because life is filled with so many twists and turns it is fun to go back and read how far you have come. Every Christmas I write a letter to myself on what I had done for that year, and when I take out the Christmas decorations out falls the letter, which I read with much delight. So many things had transpired that I had forgotten about. I liken memory to a overflowing vessel, some memories just flow over the edge.

  15. Andrew responded on 27 Mar 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    Happy birthday! I can definitely see your dad being the baby whisperer.

    I clicked on a link my cousin posted the other day, and there was an ad at the bottom for your book!

  16. Adey responded on 28 Mar 2014 at 12:43 am #

    Awww happy (now belated) birthday Kate! The way this post concluded caught me off guard with emotion because I used to love that Santana album in high school…I had this real emotional attachment to it. Actually I stilll have the CD! Some days it feels like I haven’t really come that far from who I was in those days and other days it strikes how much I’ve changed & grown. But still, I’m 25 and struggling through these years and trying to envision my future.
    I appreciate your perspective :)

    And ditto, you have the sweetest smile!

  17. Rachel responded on 29 Mar 2014 at 12:19 am #

    My son screamed in the car seat like that – classical music ALWAYS helped him! So did Kids CD’s, as painful as they are. We had classical music and spa stations set to favorites – keep it going!

  18. Andrea Kelleher responded on 29 Mar 2014 at 5:14 pm #

    I love this post! So sweet. Belated Happy Birthday.

  19. Jen responded on 30 Mar 2014 at 5:12 am #

    Happy birthday from another March baby! :) My son *hated* the car, but eventually grew out of it (his hatred of the car, not the car itself). White noise through an app used to help; we would create a mini circulatory system with a heartbeat noise mixed with waves. Driving in the car was like being inside a while (I imagine).

    We live in Australia, so driving anywhere isn’t a short trip. I have breastfed in so many back streets of Melbourne and its surrounds in the past 14 months! We now play cat videos on YouTube when we get desperate. Who knew that I would have a cat lover for a child? I dislike them so much! :)

  20. Kate responded on 31 Mar 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    @Sarah S
    Love this. Stretchy waistbands are definitely the best. I want to hear the story of how you came to live in FL!

  21. Kate responded on 31 Mar 2014 at 1:49 pm #

    @Jen
    Yes. There is so much breastfeeding on the roadside…I feel like I’m doing something illegal, hunched over the baby, glancing furtively up at passing traffic, hoping no one slows down :p

  22. Kate responded on 31 Mar 2014 at 1:50 pm #

    @Adey
    Gotta hand it to music, right?
    Here’s to the future!

  23. Kate responded on 31 Mar 2014 at 1:51 pm #

    @April
    I love this idea, that we were all babies together. It’s cool to think of all the people who were babies with me. And thinking about that makes me want to somehow know them all. I’m glad that you and I are connected, at least!

  24. Jen responded on 01 Apr 2014 at 6:26 am #

    I always hope that I don’t end up flashing someone and cause a crash :)

  25. Marina responded on 01 Apr 2014 at 10:45 am #

    Happy belated birthday from another march baby! Great article, you look great and Eden is just the cutest! Keep doing what you are doing, i always look forward to reading your blog, so many things you say are so relatable!

  26. Mandy responded on 02 Apr 2014 at 10:15 am #

    Happy belated birthday, sweetie!
    I was 48 last week. Interesting that we seem to be almost exactly 20 years apart. But you still seem to read my mind/memories in your blog, on occasion.
    And those are wonderful pictures of you, Eden, and her great-grandmother.

  27. Kate responded on 02 Apr 2014 at 10:17 am #

    @Mandy
    Happy birthday!!!! I’m glad we’re connected.

  28. Eat the Damn Cake » what older women should look like responded on 02 Apr 2014 at 10:27 am #

    [...] I am in my late twenties, and it would be nice if the future of my face wasn’t so dire. [...]

  29. Beverly Hayes responded on 02 Apr 2014 at 11:46 pm #

    That picture of you and your husband looking at each other is simply the cutest thing ever!

    Another lovely piece to read. Thank you for sharing your world and your writing with so many of us. Happy Birthday!

  30. Michele responded on 04 Apr 2014 at 4:06 pm #

    I am 45—46 is dangling out there… love this blog… and I can identify with it all. My 45th epiphany was that there is no way I was 45 and someone’s mother! Bless their hearts… poor things…

  31. Amy responded on 12 Apr 2014 at 8:23 pm #

    Great blog but please make sure your little girls carseat straps are tighter than that picture portrays.

  32. Erin responded on 11 May 2014 at 7:31 pm #

    I hear you on the babies who hate the car thing. I’m up to my 3rd – and they have all hated the car! 3 different baby seats, 2 different cars, 2 different drivers – it makes no difference! Eventually they grow out of it :)

  33. Katherine responded on 31 May 2014 at 11:25 pm #

    I just finished your book growing Eden and I laughed most of the time. I can imagine a young woman with this upbeat, sarcastic attitude…. It’s right up my alley. Awesome book, awesome family you have and awesome talent. I hope to read more stories from you soon!