Me: What makes me happy?*
Ruby: Snuggling with me! And I like snuggling with you!
I have this dear old friend whom I hardly ever see. Even though she lives in town. Even though every time I see her it feels like we are again 22 and the cosmos made extra special room for our relationship.
It’s because our lives veered – just a bit – away from one another. Me: more settled. Her: more wandering. The thing that makes it work so well is that we both deeply love and appreciate each other. We both have a bit of each other in us. She is equally settled and I am equally wandering. Sometimes it feels like a glacier is plowing down the valley between her things and my things, widening the gap. But then we gather and we realize that gutted out ravine symmetrically curves up and into two great expanses. Wide open prairies of adventurous spirit, needful wonder, wistful want.
Me (frustrated, after repeating myself for 20 minutes): Margot. Seriously. Right now it is time for bed.
Margot: I know mom! I just have to real quick ride this blanket like a skateboard down the hall a few times until I’m good at it. Geez!
Me: What was I like as a child?*
My friend is two weeks older than me and, last weekend, she planned a celebration for her 38th birthday: Skiing in costume and then a night concert in costume. The theme: Sparkle. Sunday night after I failed to show up skiing, I was in bed with my kids, reading books with a glass of wine. I was tired and noticed it was 8:00. The concert was just starting. I grabbed my phone and looked on Craigslist. I found a few tickets available for sale. I can rally, I thought. Paint your eyelids with glitter, throw on that gold shirt. Buy the ticket.
Me: What is my favorite thing to do?*
Margot: Spend time with me and my sister.
My 17 year old cat Sam started yowling in the middle of the night a few months ago. It kind of crept up on me. Like, I suddenly noticed it was a habit. One night I woke – instantly wide awake – in the middle of the night and heard him differently. He spoke to me, begged me out of bed. I went to him. He told me he is confused. Things are changing. I knew in my bones. Panic, senility is taking hold in the darkness. So, now, every night he calls for me from the living room. I rise and hold him close, bring him back to our bed where he sleeps the purring and dreamless sleep of a spry kitten. My bubbas.
Me: What makes me sad?*
Ruby: When animals die.
Ruby has a double ear infection. The first administration of 1 teaspoon of sugary medicine took every molecule of patience in both my husband and me. It was an hour of clutching a plastic syringe carrying neon pink liquid. Negotiating, raising voices, leaving the room for deep breaths. She drank it. She spit it out. She hates it. And maybe she ought to. As a child of the 80s who was prescribed amoxicillin like orange juice, I am quite thoughtful about big meds. Or maybe she needs to feel her fear and do it anyway. Yes. That. I yelled. Margot got really upset with me for yelling. She asked, “Mama, how would you feel if you were sick and afraid of medicine and your mom yelled at you?” And then Ruby, with giant watery eyes looked at me and said, “I love you mama.” Good grief. I believe I can do better next time.
Me: What is something I’m not good at?*
Margot: I don’t know. Wait…Do you think you’re not good at jumping rope?
She eventually took the medicine. I eventually calmed down and hugged my girl while we talked about life and how it’s hard to do things we don’t want to do. I thought about how parenting is this sometimes graceful/sometimes struggled dance between soft and strong.
As mothers, it is our charge to be the soft place to land and to carry a strong resolve. To soften into feelings and nowness; to be the strong grown up. To have a soft heart and strong guts.
Me: What makes me sad?*
Margot: When we don’t like the dinners you make.
Me: What do I do when you’re not around?*
Ruby: Sew and cook.
The kids ask me all the time if they can brush my hair. They are fascinated at the fact that I didn’t own a brush until I had daughters. One night I said yes and they howled at the frizz bomb.
Margot left the room to do something.
Ruby: Margot told me not to touch the bun. But I can take out the braid right mom? Right? Actually, can I take out the bun? (pause) I can. Because Margot is not the boss of me. She’s just not. (long pause, holding my in-tact bun and not moving). Right mom?
Me: Right baby.
Me: What’s something I always say to you?*
Ruby: I love you.
Margot: I love you.
* I copied these questions from an interview my friend did with her kids. I sat down with each of my daughters separately and casually asked them a series of questions; these are a selection from the lot.