I sat in the SUV, attempting to catch up with my sleep and listening to the gentle pitter-patter of light rain dancing on the tarred parking lot floor. The official end of my brother’s class was at 5 p.m., and I prayed that his teacher wouldn’t let them out early. Not today, when my frayed and frazzled nerves were getting the best of me. Fantasies of red wine, dark chocolate and sativa swirled inside my closed eyelids as I let the sound of rain, however light, coax me into a comforting place. A place where sanity and relaxation were always in abundant supply.
I imagined my warmth was nor provided by the tropical climate, but by the white down comforter in my bedroom in my parents’ house in Queens. I remembered the cocoon of soft safety bundling me in serenity, and the strawberry ice cream-pink walls glowing as light bounced off snow and hurled itself into the creamy luxury of my chosen paint. It was cozy, silent and still in that small pouch of the universe. The world and its clocks, schedules and calendars ceased to exist in that space of muted bliss and suspended activity, when the clouds cried me to sleep and washed away all of my troubles. The static of rain kept all of my problems at bay. Sleep came easily, guiltlessly and comfortably, and like a faithful lover, it left only when I wanted it to leave.
I realized as I sat in the SUV on a warm and muggy Friday afternoon in March, that I haven’t had one of those rainy days in a very long time. Not only have they been impeded by the passing of time and the changing of circumstance, but I have replaced “me time” with “Riley time”.
I don’t have the luxury of peace or quiet. I can’t shut the world out anymore. I’m forced to keep myself approachable and ready for practically any circumstance. Being a mom is a lot like being a boy scout and a gangsta: you’re always prepared and willing to bust kneecaps.
When I’m not with Riley, I’m studying or in school or writing or doing housework or running errands. Say what you will about any or all of those things constituting ample “me time”, or that they’re a given, or that I shouldn’t even mention them because of course that’s what life boils down to when you’re a mom. But they are all responsibilities, they are all necessary, and they are all very difficult. I’m not complaining. Not this time, at least. I’m just saying. I’m so limited in time that none of it feels like it’s really mine.
Instead of getting really upset about this fact, though, I focus on Riley and the fact that seeing his chubby little face somehow makes everything better. It’s cliche, I know, but something about pushing a 7 lb. 2 oz. wet mass of hair and sinew out of your love canal somehow transforms you into an extra-cheesy cornball, no matter how many times you’ve cut a jigga.
Now, instead of feeling the world fade away beneath the weight of my droopy eyelids, I feel it receding into the background as Riley climbs over my body, or practices standing (at 7 months old!), or babbles to me. I find joy and wonder in his developing personality: the way he demands things, and gets frustrated at himself for not being able to stand for more than two seconds, and loves to study the world with an awestruck expression stuck to his face. I revel in the complete perfection of his laugh and smile and cry. I find solace in knowing that I’m doing everything I can for his well-being, that I’m doing a good job so far as his mom, and that it’s the most important thing I could ever do. And despite my common sense, I find myself forgetting that moments like these – where Riley is completely mine, and completely dependent on me, and completely innocent – are not forever.
I think about that carefree girl huddled under that cool white down comforter, sleeping away superficial headaches and killer hangovers. She’d been confident in the simultaneous and permanent presence of carelessness and peace of mind. She’d been certain there were more rainy days ahead. She’d forgotten that time doesn’t stand still.
She and I really aren’t that different.