I was never the hard-rocker type. Even in my wild and carefree youth, you were more likely to find me cranking up “Oh, What a Night” than whatever it is that The Scorpions recorded. I’ve been to two Simon & Garfunkel concerts, seen three Billy Joel tours, had nosebleed seats for Clapton, gotten drenched at Wolftrap right after Peter, Paul & Mary sang “The Great Storm is Over,” and been forced to sit through Phil Collins’s version of choreography (which mostly consisted of running about in a circle). The first concert I ever saw was Cyndi Lauper.
I used to know all the words to “Miss American Pie.” I’m that girl.
But, the music I listened to I loved passionately, mellow though it was. I was the first one on the dance floor for Gloria Gaynor every single time. The day after I got accepted to the Ph.D. program at UNC, I listened to a certain James Taylor song about 72 times on my long commute to the job I was quitting. When J and I got engaged, I knew just which song I wanted for our first dance. I had gone my whole life moving between families and states. There was no doubt in my mind that “You’re My Home” was our song.
When Zachary was born, I listened to Norah Jones while nursing until the baby hit three months old and got distracted by that kind of wild and crazy music. When we lived in London, I’d put on the soundtrack to The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert so the boys and I could dance in the kitchen. Sure, now I also listened to the Bacon Brothers singing “Philadelphia Chickens,” but that’s some rockin’ kids’ music.
Over the last couple of years, I have somehow stopped listening to music. I play it for the kids in the car, but when I drive alone I listen to the news because otherwise I’ll be out of touch with current affairs. In the house, I rarely turn on a CD. I am too busy with the Getting Done of Things. There are lunches to make and bottoms to wipe and Zach is learning to read and Ben finally recognizes two letters. And, oh shit, the baby didn’t get the memo about how six-month-olds are supposed to stay where you put them, so she’s fucking crawling towards that one-inch Lincoln Log and shoving it in her mouth.
I used to be charming and interesting and funny. Now I am efficient. And, I mean efficient. No one I know is as capable as I am. I breastfeed with one hand and type with the other. I get three kids out the door by 8:45 every morning with all teeth brushed, everyone dressed, and no breakfast dishes left in the sink. And I pump five ounces before they even get up for the day. By the time we make it to the preschool, I want a fucking marching band to be there waiting to point out how amazing that feat is. We have recently had to cut back our childcare help significantly (glad the folks at AIG are getting bonuses, by the way), but that’s OK, because I can pick up the slack. I can bathe all three kids. I can answer Zach’s questions. I can bake pumpkin muffins during Lilah’s morning nap on Tuesday because the boys are at school and that is the day someone else brings Ben home. I CAN DO IT.
People ask me whether my husband gets time to pursue his interests because he works so hard and is such a dedicated Daddy. People also worry whether we have enough “us” time. And I want to scream at them. Because I don’t need “us” time when I have no “me” to contribute. Fuck “us” time; I’m drowning in one us or another around here. I have buried ME under a sea of US.
You can take your “us” time and shove it up your ass. I want to know what happened to the girl who used to sing “Cecilia” in the car, albeit off-key. As far as I can ascertain, she is allowing everyone else the luxury of falling apart now and then because she is holding it all together.
We have an au pair coming soon, and that ought to help. Except, of course, the first priority has to be finally getting time alone with each kid. And volunteering a little at the preschool. And dealing with summer vacation. And reintroducing Benjamin to the concept of discipline. And perhaps actually reading a book to Lilah now and then, rather than putting her down on the floor to choke on her brother’s toys. And I have to get my resume in shape, because if we have learned one thing in this economy, it is that five people being reliant on one person’s hirability is not a wise idea.
Tonight, the boys watched the second half of their show while I did the dishes. I put Lilah on the floor with some toys, but she fussed. She cries so rarely that we end up taking advantage of her easy-going nature and ignoring her too much. Tonight, she had enough and wanted some attention. There were lentils all over the floor from Benjamin’s protein-fest. I had to water the tomato plants we just put in. I thought some music might keep her occupied.
I just recently rearranged the house to make room for the au pair, so the stereo is in a new spot. It wasn’t even plugged in yet. I fished out the cord and plugged it in, then dug through the CDs until I found Piano Man. And there was “Travelling Prayer,” as beguiling as ever. I picked her up and began to whirl around the kitchen. And she giggled at me. The boys came in, and Benjamin – exhausted from a missed nap – started spinning around. Lilah laughed some more.
And then I had to put her down to do the dishes. I sank back into the woman who can do it all, although I did pick her back up for a moment when we got to “You’re My Home.”
When J gets home tonight, all the housework will be done. But, as usual, his wife will be missing. Let me know if you come across her.