When I looked in the mirror this morning, I was thirteen years old. I was thirteen years old and the voices outside the bathroom door weren't real. They were laughing and then they were crying and then they were yelling at each other and none of them were real.
Some days that's how it feels. Like I wake up in this house and I have to be the adult I'm wearing to the theme party.
"The theme is family. Put on your best mom and go crazy. Go nuts. Live it up, but wait, here are four children and a husband and a house you're trying to buy and jobs you're trying to book so that you can pay your cover."
"Yes. This party costs a bajillion dollars, don't you know that? A bajillion hours and a bajillion dollars and sometimes you will feel like none of it is real."
That's how it feels.
When I was Archer's age I thought I was pretend. I thought that nobody could see me if I said nothing. That if I concentrated hard enough I would become something else. A unicorn or a pegusus or both. A unipeg. None of this is real, I thought. How could I possibly be real?
When I looked in the mirror this morning I was the chick version of Tom Hanks' body wrapped around a child. That movie is exactly how I feel sometimes. Waking up in a strange bedroom with damp hair in pigtails and adult body parts and all of these little voices everywhere calling my mother's name.
"Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!"
"Mom! Mom! Mom!"
My mother tells me we all have an age inside of us. Some of us are born with little old men in our souls or little old women or infants or toddlers. Archer was born one hundred and two but I am thirteen. I turned thirteen and seventeen years later, here I am: confused by the appearance of my face without braces, my bedstand without Sassy magazine. There is a strange man in my bed and a sound machine in a bedroom full of babies. And they're all real. They're real and I don't remember how any of it happened.
I still call myself a girl. I'm thirty years old and I have four children and one of them is going to be seven in two months and I'm only six years older than he is. I still think about what I want to be when I grow up and I still wear the same hoodie I wore in High School school and even though the wrists are all stretched out, it still makes me feel cool because I got it from the skate shop where I worked for two summers. All the cute boys used to hang out there and we'd all pile in my Cabriolet after work and get burritos and eat them on the beach.
I knew how to set up skateboards then. I knew where to drill the holes.
They're still boys and I'm still a girl except I'm thirty years old. I'm thirty years old with grey hairs starting to show and a wrinkle across my forehead and hands that look like my mothers did after gardening and I'm wearing a hoodie with the drawstring pulled tight around my face like nothing has changed.
Like I'm dropping off someone else's kids in my mother's Previa. Her minivan was the first car I learned to drive.
My mother says the age inside her is eighteen. She still feels eighteen. She has three adult children and four grandchildren and white hair but every day she feels like she's eighteen. Maybe that's why we fought like teenagers even when we weren't. When she wasn't. Maybe that's why we get along so well now. Me, in my AAA training bra, her with her college acceptance letters.
I can write everything down in a way that makes sense. To me it makes sense. I can write a letter with conviction and a blog post with two fingers and a sleeping baby in my left arm but when it comes to speaking aloud...
I open my mouth and watch as vowels collide and consonants float up into the sky like balloons. And I jump for them. I jump to catch them because I know where they're going. I know that they must eventually come down and that whales and dolphins and birds will eat them. They will eat them and die and it will be my fault.
Releasing balloons is a beautiful thing until they come down and something chokes on their remains.
I don't want anyone to choke on these words but I attempt them anyway. I open my mouth and I am thirteen years old and I kick the walls and punch my pillow because that's not what I meant to say. That's not what I meant!
At thirteen years old I kept a journal. It was the only way I knew how to communicate with my mother. And she would come into my room every night and I would read her my diary. I did that every day until one day I started sharing with everyone else.
I am writing this post and I will publish it today like you are my mother and you care that I had a shit week. I am writing this post like I used to write letters to the boys I loved and the boys I hated and the boys I loved and then hated. Those letters were damn good. They were good until I opened my mouth. Cancelled out what insight I had scribbled with the crowbar I kept hidden behind my teeth. BAM, there goes your windows and your door. BAM, now you have a hysterical thirteen year-old on your hands.
I do that all the time. In the same hoodie. With the same mouth. Like oh my god.
Sometimes it smells like Crest in the bathroom. Sometimes a drawer is the only place to hide. If I wasn't so big and so old and so real, I might just climb inside.