now i'm just somebody that i used to know

First of all, you're welcome for getting this awesome Gotye song stuck in your head. 2012 called and wants its quirky international pop sensation back, am I right?

Second, and more to the point, I was telling a story today when I realized that I'm a stranger in my own skin.

"I had this friend from college come to town unexpectedly. We had this amazing, 6-hour dinner. 5 bottles of wine. We tasted almost the entire menu. By the end of the night we'd talked about our careers, our exes, our future dream lives, great parties we'd been to, vacations we'd taken or dreamed of taking. We were friends with our server, with the pastry chef who we'd watched prepping fresh fruit tarts from our kitchenside seats at the bar. It was the kind of dinner that's completely unplanned. You think, you're just going to grab dinner. And before you know it hours have passed. You haven't checked your phone. You didn't notice the night fade in, how many of the tables around you have been occupied, vacated, occupied again. It was just one of those magic nights with an old friend. It was a gift."

My friend sighed. "God I miss 6-hour dinners."

This friend, like me, has a 2-year-old and a few-week-old.

What can I say, great minds breed alike.

So we're two young women, formerly hip, formerly "of the world." We were the kind of girls who would have caught up over happy hour cocktails and charcuterie plates. We would have worn eyeliner. But now we are two mothers of two getting our chat on in the living room while our toddlers push blocks off of high shelves and newborns drowsily gum at our boobs. We stop mid-conversation to read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom or blow someone's nose for them against their will.

We've had a lot of 6-hour dinners. We both miss them badly.

But a 6-hour dinner tonight would not be the gift that it was 2 years ago.

First of all, 5 bottles of wine? When I KNOW for a fact that I'll be needing to wake up at dawn tomorrow and sing the diaper song to Chicken to make him forget that he's actually having his diaper changed? When I'll need to prepare and present his breakfast with the zeal and flourish of a Las Vegas magician's assistant? When I have been sleeping at most 4 hours at a stretch for the last who knows how long? Right now when my husband sees me having a glass of wine he says, "so you're getting ready for bed then?" I can't even drink enough to turn my tongue purple.

Also, my boobs would turn into furious trembling milk grenades after about 2 hours. So what, I go to the bathroom and hand express? That's super hip. And in no way disrupts the flow of a hip evening. "Oh my gosh, hold that thought, I really want to hear about your threesome with the Somali pirate king and the Sea World whistleblower. But I have to go boob-jizz into a paper towel real quick. Be back in... I'm not sure how long it'll take to let down in there... maybe 10?"

And, oh, that whole being-completely-present-and-not-even-wondering-what-time-it-is-or-who-has-called-you thing? Try my-phone-is-face-up-on-the-table-in-case-the-babysitter-calls-or-maybe-I've-stashed-it-in-my-bra-on-vibrate-but-that-means-I-have-to-check-it-every-time-it-buzzes-to-make-sure-my-children-are-still-breathing-and-even-if-the-babysitter-doesn't-call-the-silence-could-mean-a-carbon-monoxide-leak-has-silently-killed-them-all-in-their-sleep-I'd-better-check-in-excuse-me-for-a-minute.

Remember how we used to talk about the rosy past and the limitless future? Okay. The past is still rosy, but I'm so tired I am having a hard time recalling the word "spoon." (Excuse me, would you mind bringing me a... you know, a (scooping gesture), oh shit, you know, it's a (stirring gesture), not a knife, but a...) The limitless future? My future is still limitless, but it's limitless in like a ten-degree-wide field. Instead of dreaming about who I'll be with, where I'll be, what kind of job I'll have, the endless permutations and combinations of life elements, my dreams are like, "OK, here's the big dream: you'll be with your husband and your children, raising your children, with your husband, in your home. Just like right now. Only there will be a NANNY. And a WINE FRIDGE."

I've tried returning to the gloriously footloose days of childlessness. Ryan and I spent a week in New York this spring. Chicken was home in Seattle. We had late dinners, drinks. We saw a play. We walked. We wandered. We were not bound by nap time, nor snack time. I had no binkies in my handbag. There were no tantrums to defuse, no shitty diapers to change in the middle of Central Park. We were, for all intents and purposes, childless.

Except we weren't.

Everywhere we went, we wondered what Chicken would think, or say, or do there. We laughed at his imagined shenanigans at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We talked about raising children in the city. We reminisced about how hard our life had been when we lived there, and how hard our life would be should we return with 2 kids in tow. I stopped in every toy store to see if there was something Chicken would love.

We were only two-thirds present. We were literally missing our last third.

When we weren't looking, the pie of our family had been re-sliced, and though we returned to New York without the physical presence of our child, we couldn't stop missing him. We carried him up and down that island in our jokes, our use of his Chickenese slang, in the photos from home that we swiped through on the train uptown.

We tried on our old life to discover that it no longer fit.

So 6-hour dinners. Those were amazing. Maybe we'll have them again. Someday.

For now, I'll settle for a quick burger and a brewski on a sticky table, two high chairs crammed in on the two-top. For now, I'll stop my conversation to shush Buster back to sleep, to remind Chicken that ketchup is for dipping, not finger painting, even as Ryan and I grin at each other to watch our son carving out patterns in the sweet red sauce. For now, I'll have to take some time to get to know my new life, to redefine what, exactly, is a gift.


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