Recently, I friended an old high school acquaintance on facebook who turns out to be a creative director in an amazing ad agency in New York City. Like Don Draper status with Emmy-winning commercials and fancy ties. I looked down at myself, sloppy and tired, brushing the cookie crumbs off my pants.
Is this really where I wanted to end up? Is this the woman I thought I’d be?
My mind was consumed with thoughts of the past as I unloaded the dishwasher. Memories of television and fake eyelashes and In Touch magazine photo shoots. People doing my make-up and eating at fancy places I could never afford. I thought of poor Martha Stewart, who didn’t like us much, but had such fabulous collections of things and a bubbly, youthful laugh. I thought of the endless cabs and the fleeting second of fame and what it was like to feel special in this world.
I yearned to live there, then. The Big. Ol. City. where the lights were always burning and air thickened in the summer – a mixture of urine and exhaust and pure, uncut talent. “What’s a working girl to do?” I’d say to myself as I rounded 24th Ave, my future yet untold. Maybe I’d meet my husband for drinks, or coffee, or try that new vegan place uptown. My hair would be blond and my legs lean. It’s not like everyone can run off to the Hamptons when the temperature rises. I’d gut it out. Because I’m a southern girl, and I can handle it. I’d find my place in that rat race, settling down in a nice hole somewhere, munching on crumbs.
I remember being on an interview, sitting down with a bunch of marketing executives on 6th Avenue, my first child belly-flipping around in my abdomen and making me nauseous. She was just the size of a bean then. I think she was trying to tell me something.
My son suddenly awoke from his nap crying, ruining my perfectly good daydream about Dean & Deluca chocolates. His pacifier had fallen to the floor and tears were streaming from his red, tired face. The moment I picked him up, his arms curled around my neck like I might leave him forever and this was our one last embrace. His head of thick, blond hair buried into my chest, and he let out the most peaceful coo. I stopped what I was doing, carried him to my bedroom, and let him lay on my chest for a solid hour and a half. He turned his head and sighed and flipped a few times. I think he was as happy as he ever was in his whole two years of life. As I lay there, rubbing his back, I let my mind rest on what might have been. Or what I might have missed.
I chose this life. You can hear the katydids screeching their evening refrain in the oaks and wonder if the tomatoes are getting enough water. I eat farm eggs and bake bread on Mondays and hang clothes on the line. Instead of going to court or summarizing deposition transcripts, I ask my husband about his day. I make sure the toilet bowls are clean. I find time to write. It’s the life I wanted, and one I fiercely fought to have. But it’s not cosmopolitan. No one cares if you wear designer jeans or have red underbellies to your high-heeled shoes. No one in Austin even wears high-heeled shoes. Why would you, when flip flops are much more comfortable, and you’re just headed out for Migas anyway?
My son woke up and we played the tickle game. I did laundry. I made macaroni and cheese with a breadcrumb topping. My son wore one of my old hats and tried to dig ice from a Whataburger cup, which made me laugh. My daughter and I stayed up late eating warm banana pudding. My husband was out of town, so I let my daughter cuddle up in our down comforter with me, turning over sometimes in the middle of the night just to touch her arm. Just to make sure she was still there.
Somehow I don’t think I’d get these memories living in the land of great hopes and expectations. I’m not sure my soul would be rested enough. I’m not sure my children would find their way. It’s not home. It’s not warm and inviting with room to breathe.
This is the place I want to live. This is the life I choose. Thank you, God, for leading me here. For letting me float inside this quiet peace, amidst the wildflowers and artists and fields of expired ambition, gently blowing away with the wind. Past the inland sea oats, whispering by the Indian blankets. Far off into the hot, Texas sky.