I blinked and a year passed. My son is 4, my daughter is 2. They are both irrepressibly full of life and energy and exhaust us in parts only equal to what they pour back into our souls.
It’s interesting how things change as you grow older. I am thirty now, and while I once understood the reality of the world to encompass sharing every aspect of my life with it, I am so much more private now. In the early days, social media was about throwing yourself – funny, poised, messy, authentic – into the void and seeing who responded back with their own messy, authentic selves. You would become friends and love and hate and laugh without ever seeing that other person in real life. That person could have been in Zimbabwe, in Canada, down the street.
Now the thought goes through my mind where it never did before: who is this person? Is this person in Canada, or Zimbabwe, or worse, down the street? Why do they care about who I am or what I am writing, and should I be worried that they do?
Age hardens us, I think. The shellacking of our vibrant selves is layered with the growing realization that everything could collapse at any moment. Why bring spectators into the messy, boring, unrelenting reality of our lives?
I am a cynic these days, when I never was before.
And yet, there is a small spark inside me that says that its worthy to keep going. That pushing against that fear is keeping a window open inside. That having that window cracked open, even just a little, is an important part of being a citizen of the world.
So here I am, opening a window that is creaky with age, edges cracked with old paint and the sticky residue of a thousand toddler meals, a hundred milk spills, and countless cheerios spilled under the seat.
We bought a house in April of this year that managed to sing to my husband a exultant song of Floridian success: stucco walls and large rooms and granite counter-tops stretching as far as the eye can see.
To me it sings a soft song of whimsy: ceilings too high, windows too big, sunlight too bright as it streams across the tile floor and makes the couch hot to sit on. I love it. In many ways, it reminds me of our house in France, where the too high ceilings, the too big windows had an equal effect on our energy bills, although for opposite seasons.
We live in a subdivision that is a poster child for Florida subdivisions. The lawns are carefully manicured and kept in line by wandering HOA members with too much time on their hands who don’t hesitate to send nasty letters to homeowners when their grass grows too tall, their palms too frondy, their flowers too wilted under the nuclear summer sun.
“It keeps up the value of the house,” says my husband after we received one this fall, when we were remiss in removing all the dead fronds from our palm trees out front.
“Who is watching us?” I wonder aloud.
He doesn’t respond because he is outside hacking razor-edged fronds off the palms with a scythe, the sky deep and cloudlessly blue above him.
In Florida, the summer is our winter. It keeps us inside and scurrying from car to door and door to car whenever we have the unfortunate task of going outside. From May through September the heat is so heavy, the light so bright, and the collective agony so acute that we successfully keep many of the northern tourists away.
But then October comes and from one day to the next it’s 75 degrees with no humidity and the days are so achingly beautiful that they must send secret signals to the northern denizens to start their journeys south. Our parking lots become populated with license plates from New York, Wisconsin, Ohio, Ontario. Suddenly everyone is wearing white capri pants and the true Florida style is back on the streets, although Floridians themselves never wear it.
I don’t blame these snowbirds. Florida has called to me for years. I know the sound of that song.
My son has found highlighters and is coloring with them next to me. My husband sleeps off the effects of Thanksgiving, my daughter stirs in her bed. My day begins. One step after another.