It is Wednesday night in the suburbs of Chicago. Specifically, it is 7:45 p.m. on a Wednesday night – the time when the somewhat late Chicago commuters are briskly walking to their cars in a twilight parking lot. Late, but not too late to kiss the kids good night.
But I am not a part of that fray. Maybe in a different life.
But not this one.
In this one, I am lying on the floor of my twin daughters’ room. Sprawled, almost like a bad crime scene. I am dressed like a mullet – half loungewear on the bottom and half work attire on the top.
It is dark. It is dark because the heels of my hands are pressed on my eyes, rubbing methodically. I hear two sets of feet running down the hall. One set stops at the door and one set stops next to my head. I slowly remove my hands. I see a bottom.
A clothed bottom.
Which, as a parent of toddler twins, a clothed bottom is about all you can ask for when presented with a derriere in your face.
This particular derriere belongs to Ellie. She is in position to do a summersault. She turns her head to look over her shoulder to make sure I’m paying attention.
I flip her and land her on my legs. She hops off.
“Again!” she pronounces.
Carrie has returned from her adventures in the hallway. She is holding Super Pickle: a plush pickle that used to belong to Frank when he was young, but who has now come into favor with Carrie as her new stuffed best friend.
“Pickle, Mama! Super Pickle!” She makes Super Pickle fly.
Ellie is at the door now, about to embark on an adventure. She turns to me before she departs and I hear her say, “I want some socks Mama!”
I furrow my brow.
“Socks are in your closet, Ellie.”
She furrows her brow.
“I want some SOCKS Mama.”
I lay my head down on the floor again and replay the words over and over in my head.
Carrie understands, though. She goes to the door to leave as well.
“I want some socks, too, Mama!” says Carrie.
“SOCKS! I want some socks.”
“Socks?” I ask again.
Carrie repeats herself at least a half dozen times. She is so emphatic about the words, she is drooling, but somehow looking at me like I am crazy the crazy one.
And then I realize what she wants.
Never, ever have my children pleaded fervently for footwear.
I should’ve known.
We are down the stairs and snacking within seconds and my children are relieved. They were probably wondering if they had a remedial mama and subsequently wondering what they will tell the other kids on the playground. I can imagine the scene at the top of the slide: The girls huddled with two of their best slide-riding buddies, whispering, “We asked for snacks and she kept saying socks. Do you think the Park District has a program for her?”
I want to explain to them that I can’t read lips and even a southern accent is difficult for me to understand. Nothing else major is wrong with me, I want to explain to them. Well, nothing too major.
But, there are some surprises better left for when they are older.
So they have some puréed fruit and I sweep the floor and we all three consider entirely different lines of thought.
Ellie counts to ten. Then says her ABC’s. And then congratulates herself on her tremendous accomplishments. I tell her how smart she is, but it is just icing on the cake. Girlfriend is independent.
Carrie investigates the shapes she can make squeezing the fruit on the table until I stop her. She may be boisterous and tough seeming on the outside, she has a big, sensitive heart. After I take away her fruit and firmly (but nicely) admonish her for dumping it out, I hug her and squeeze her.
Back up the stairs we go. Snuggles. A round of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” More snuggles.
It’s hard to believe they were ever tiny. It’s hard to believe that Carrie’s weight actually dipped a little below 5 lbs in the NICU before she came home.
I remember living through the moments with them, listening to them breathe while they slept on my chest, and I thought, “I will never forget how tiny they were.”
And while I know they were tiny, I can’t remember it. I can’t imagine it.
If you’ve seen the twins lately, they are little girls. They rode their first carnival rides. Ate their first carnival food, even. #ParentsOfTheYear #OnlyOrganicCarnivalFood #BAHAHAHA
My parents and their parents and their parents all warned me. “You will age. It goes so fast.”
And I remember just not comprehending it when I was younger. I knew I’d age, but for some reason I thought time would always be ahead of me. But now, there are 32 1/2 years of time behind me.
My peers are noticing this reality, too. Many have especially commented on the kids’ music today. And the clothes. And the catch-phrases. Sometimes they don’t hear themselves saying the words. Sometimes they do. And then they repeat themselves – just to hear it again. The words are eerily familiar and yet, the words are not their own. The words are those of our grandparents and great grandparents saying, “I told you…”
I tend to believe that the ones who have gone before us would also tell us a whole lot of other things about life. How precious it is. How fragile it is. How you can’t ever really know the first two things until you’ve lived it for a while.
I look at the little girls tucked into their beds. I know how it happened that they are not little babies any more – how they grew up. I know that it happened over a series of Wednesday nights, much like this one.
Wednesday nights here are like driving through downstate Illinois. Fields and fields of corn, as far as the eye can see. Fields that seem to stretch on, all the way to forever, until you pull off the highway at your destination and you realize you’ve traveled 300 miles without ever noticing it.
We are a long way from where we were. I’m glad we have a long way yet to go.