I feel like an imposter doing yard work. I'm out there, holding power lawn tools that we got from a zealous father on Christmas, and I glance around before putting on my headphones. I want to make sure nobody is there to watch me, because I'm obviously just a kid wearing my big people pants for the afternoon.
I wield the industrial hedge trimmer like a machine gun. I'm not really wearing a pair of maternity capris that I can pull up over my boobs because they're the only pants I felt like I could afford getting dirty. I'm one of those Foxy Ladies with oversized sunglasses and hair out to there. Somebody who would wear a hotpants romper and say, "You're under arrest, Sugar," like from those movies we used to think were cool when we were in high school, but were really only pretentious and boring.
Lots of times I feel that way.
These are things that grownups do. Taking the car to the garage, mowing the lawn, paying bills, balancing a budget. Let me just pull these big people britches up a little higher and we'll figure it all out.
I feel like nothing is real in the real world.
These are the sorts of things that are mysterious to me. I used to watch my mother fretfully balancing a check book and think, "I'm so glad I don't have to do things like that." Like laying down mulch and preparing for a garage sale. Oh, la-ti-dah, maybe I'll have an iced latte and a scone when I've finished pruning these mulberry bushes. Right? It all just seems for pretend and silly.
I think I'm lucky that I've always wanted to have kids. Being a mommy has never felt like one of those grown up things. I assimilated my kids into my identity easily. It's the other parts of being "mom" that I'll never get used to.
Like... I feel very uncomfortable in banks. I don't know how to fill out the slips and I'm never sure when it's my turn to move from the far away line behind the rope to one of the counters. I inevitably approach one of the tellers without permission and he'll look up at me from where he's counting a stack of checks over and over again, and then he'll look away like I'm not even standing there and I'll realize I've made the mistake again. Too soon! You've moved again too soon!
Once, I was depositing a check at the bank inside of the grocery store. Louise wasn't born yet, and I had Scouty with me. She was being particularly lively that day, and I had to deal with the very serious, very pantsy business of standing at the bank counter, which was making me feel a little agitated. By the time the teller was able to wait on me, I was only barely clinging to my adult facade by a stretching suspender. Scout kept wandering behind me and spinning in circles, so that at the exact moment the bank woman approached me, I looked down and to my side and said in a loud, stern voice,
Put both of your hands on the counter and don't move a muscle until I say so!
Of course I was talking to my two year old who was invisible beneath the barrier between us, but the woman thought she was part of some kind of stick up. I smiled at her and her eyes were wide and she said, "WHAT DID YOU SAY?" And you should have seen my final suspender pop. My adult disguise was failing and I laughed with so much freedom and so inappropriately that she blushed.
I said, "Not you! You don't have to put your hands on the counter! I just need help depositing a check. My two year old. I didn't want her to wander away while I'm talking to you."
I was sorry to have given that woman such a thrill, only to then sweep it right back out from under her. Imagine the millisecond where she thought she was being robbed by a thirty year old girl in yoga pants and a flower in her hair, clutching a crumpled $100 check in little fingers. "For Amanda's Birthday," the memo line would have read. And then the fuzz would have shown up and been all like, "You're under arrest, Sugar!" and what a day at work that would have been for her! There would have been a moment where she was overjoyed at being herself, the bank lady inside of the grocery store.
I don't know if I'll ever get over it. My lawn will never be tidy and the backs of my check cards will perpetually remain unsigned.
I'm good at little mouse things, though. Like baking and writing and ferreting pieces of me away in places to re-purpose. I'm good at reading books in the corner of the sunroom at the library. I'm a wonderful bike rider and tomato cultivator. I build tiny puppet stages out of cereal boxes and I never actually grew up, because my student loan bills are changing color and a neighbor's tree fell into our yard this winter and I don't care even a little bit. I'm good at watching tv under a blanket and shopping for tea and spices. I'm an expert at running away from myself and being a drug addict and somebody's dangerous lover.
Even though I don't do those things anymore, I'm still a kind of person that men look at and understand I'll never be as clean and ordered as their mother. I'll never be able to handle a dinner party because my bra strap will keep falling around my shoulder and I'll get too excited over the fancy dessert.
All of that exploding and color, it was how I chose to make myself into something. It was how I chose to shake off my upbringing. The late nights and lights in the distance, the time I thought I could hear your thoughts as I slept next to you because I'd been awake for more hours than I could count and I was starting to go a little bit crazy. I did those things because I was young and full of life.
The parts where I didn't belong, though, where I was nobody's baby because I believed in things that were good and true and right. Where I had a space around me that you had to be very brave to cross, and most people weren't very brave at all. Where I was honest and sometimes it was too loud and people didn't want to hear me. There was something to it, I think. I might not be proud of the things I did, but there was still some me in all of it. I was a junky who never stole. Maybe the only one that's ever existed. I was that girl in these pictures and I had shitty boyfriends who lied to me, but I never did those things. I never lied and I never cheated and I still didn't belong just because I didn't.
And I still don't. I'm just not criminal about it, anymore.
Unless you find something sexy and dangerous about baking oatmeal raisin bread on a Sunday afternoon?