Monday, September 12th, 2011
You know that fantasy? The one that goes, “My life would be so much better if …”? I’ve often fallen victim to this fantasy over the years, in many different incarnations.
As a chubby, awkward, straggly-haired middle schooler with a penchant for oversize T-shirts tucked into high-waisted denim shorts, I believed that if I lost 23 pounds over the summer break, my entire personality and lifestyle would transform. I would no longer be a shy bookworm; I would be cool and confident. Boys would like me. I would dress like Cher Horowitz from Clueless, complete with thigh highs.
I wish I’d known then that I would never lose that 23 pounds. I wished I’d known that it wouldn’t have worked anyway, despite what teen dream makeover movies would have you believe. And that one day, somehow, I would become more confident anyway. One day, boys would like me, and I wouldn’t have to hide in tent-like plaid flannel shirts (well, it was the 90s). I would dress how I wanted, though thigh highs are still out of the question.
In my 20s, my fantasy changed to, “If only I had a baby, my life would be so much better.” If I had a baby, well-meaning nosy people wouldn’t ask me all the time, “When are you going to have kids?” I would have a baby shower and get to choose a baby name and decorate a nursery, like normal people. I wouldn’t have to pretend I didn’t want kids – even to myself sometimes – and I wouldn’t have to view my body as a malfunctioning traitor. The future wouldn’t always be tinged with worry.
I wish I’d known then that it would happen, that I would get my little girl one day. I wish I’d spent those years enjoying my carefree, child-free existence instead of wondering all the time when, when, if, if, and fighting with D about adoption and crying into my pillow. I wish I hadn’t taken so many pregnancy tests. I wish I’d known the long wait would be virtually erased from my mind the moment she got here.
Lately, I have a new fantasy. “My life would be so much better if … we moved to town.” If we moved, we’d be closer to our families/babysitters, so I could take more time to work and write. We’d be closer to Ruby’s pediatrician, and my favorite hair salon, and the mall, and Publix. D wouldn’t have to commute as far, so Ruby and I would see him more. We’d spend a lot less money on gas. I wouldn’t have to wonder what to do about school for Ruby. I could put her in pre-school a day or two a week when she’s older. We could live in a low-maintenance house with no renovation projects looming over our heads.
I don’t know the outcome of this one yet. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that it’s impossible to know which is the best path until you can look back from the top of the hill. That doesn’t stop me from trying to see it, though. In a few years, will I look back on this as a phase? Will I still be happily living in my beautiful home that I love, home-schooling Ruby, walking across the street to the park or to have dinner with friends, not minding the long drive to town?
Or will I be happily ensconced in a new McMansion, surrounded by fabulous closets and walls that meet at 90-degree angles? Will I be happy walking down the street to the neighborhood duck pond with Ruby, waving to the neighbors we don’t know by name, not minding having to get Ruby to school by 7:30 a.m., watching her in the school play, taking her to dance lessons and soccer, going to the birthday parties of her little friends, making inane chitchat with other soccer moms?
Honestly, seeing it all spelled out like that brought tears to my eyes. Because I think this time, my fantasy might be right. I don’t know that my life would be quantifiably “better” if we moved to town. It doesn’t even resemble the life I thought I wanted. I have loved my life in this small town, this old house. This is the life I used to fantasize about having, and I want to cry at the mere thought of leaving it.
But the thing is Ruby changed my fantasy. I wanted her to grow up in an old house, like I always daydreamed of doing when I was a kid. Now I’m starting to see the house doesn’t much matter. She will be happy wherever we live; she will be loved; she will learn. And if Ruby had a mom who didn’t have to work, she could have everything and still live here. But she has me. I don’t have time to home school. I’m too lazy to drive her all the way to town multiple times weekly for sports practices and games. This mama can only do so much, and this daddy, too.
On top of it all, neither of us has time for constant home renovation anymore. The waiting projects keep piling up, even after we hired several of them done this spring.
I guess in the future, building the best Ruby will be our project.