A few days ago, my coworker, and more than that now, my close friend, talked about a story of us teaching together just around five years ago. We talked around the door frame of my classroom, and I said honestly that I couldn’t remember much about that time. I remember fragments, little memories of laughing together over something funny I said in class, lessons we created alongside one another. I told her essentially that it’s as if that time didn’t happen, that it felt like such a long time ago. I felt just awful as I saw her sweet face change a bit as she tried not to take it personally.
Our friendship has enriched so much since then, and comparing our relationship now to the one we had as coworkers years ago contributes to the disconnection in my mind. However, the second and larger challenge was clarified so well by our mutual friend: she said that “details just phase in and out of focus” after you have kids. It makes me think of dating abbreviations I’d learn in high school history class–B.C. and A.D. So many events in history would be clarified with just those two letters.
Well, then I’m P.K., post kids.
When I was in college, I was always busy. Even in the short span before grad school, I was planning the wedding, applying to schools, taking classes, working as an intern; it was as if I’d squeeze the last drop out of each hour. Seems like some of that adrenaline has never left me.
Part of my BK (before kids) history clicked by so fast. It’s weird to really feel with the storyteller in Naguib Mahfouz’s fantastic story “Half a Day,” where the young boy finds himself a grandfather in what feels like just an afternoon. But if my history reel opened up right now, it would look like a roll of exposed film, like the kind we used to get for our cameras. 12 pictures. 24 pictures. 36 pictures. We had to be selective about what we remembered or the entire string may get distorted. Lots has happened in my world of one, our world of two, our world of three, and now our world of four.
Around this month alone, we experienced big events. Layla lost two teeth. I call her “beedandoon,” which means “without teeth”in Farsi. I sing her this two-word song, “bedanooon, beedanoooon,” and she giggles with me, exposing a smile that relieves me since she still has a whole bunch more teeth to lose (sigh!). She only partially believed in the tooth fairy for 12 hours. In fact,she pulled out her second tooth on her own just to confirm that it was really Mom and not the fairy. Can’t say she’s not determined to get to the honest.
While Layla practiced dentistry, Zade has become an avid storyteller. Today he told Layla he saw tree swinger at school, or the swinging tree, or something magical like that (even Layla was confused as she passed me in the hall on the way back from her shower). I found crumpled toilet paper in the eye of the cool-mist humidifier and had to sweep it out with a q-tip. When I asked Zade if he did it, he finally revealed that “he was running really fast and the paper wad just fell into the hole.”
And I’ve found out that my husband and close friends can be the best little white liars for which a friend could ask. They knew for almost two weeks that I’d won something incredibly important to me: Teacher of the Year. I gasped and broke down with such release and happiness when they called my name for a contest I convinced myself I had not won this year. When Kal and the kids walked over to me from the stage, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t recognized that the light-up shoes behind the curtain belonged to Zade or that Kal hadn’t caved in on the secret. Layla told Kal on the way to surprise me, “I’m so happy Mommy won. She will be so proud of herself.”
But ask me what I did last month, and I’ll have to really think hard at it. Ask me what 2010 was like, and I’ll think, “Mmmm…Layla was 1, so I was pregnant with Zade then. I spent half that year curled on the couch waiting out the nausea.” Ask me what 2013 was like, and I’ll start, “well, Zade was in Montessori by then…” My timeline isn’t marked by my own impressions as much; it’s etched by the kids’.
I felt disconcerted by my hazy memory and worried that I’d lost the experiences if I couldn’t remember them. After thinking on it a bit more, I have to say, “I ain’t got time for that!” I’ll do my best like I usually do, and I’ll hope things stick where they are supposed to. I’ll rely on my friends’ memories while trying to write down some of my own. And the romantic in me will rely on the feelings I remember when a beautiful song changes key and my heart slips into nestled cove, similar to when I’d listen to 70s pop artists like Abba or Googoosh with my mom as she cleaned the house.
I can say I’ve followed the string that brought me here. I’m certain the string was there; I can’t remember the color exactly or how it looked, but that’s alright, too. The end result is just as appreciated.