Today, a friend sent me pictures of a litter of kittens she’d found behind her garage. The implication was clear, although she was smart enough not to come out with it: one of these could be yours. I was possessed by an insane desire to go snatch one up.
I have three cats, which is a whisker’s breadth away from crazy cat lady. As a matter of fact, Facebook recently reminded me that about 5 years ago my then-10-year-old son had asked me, “When we go to college, you’re not going to become a crazy cat lady, right?” I had thought it was cute enough to post, not quite catching the underlying seriousness of it.
The other night, I had about four glasses of wine with dinner, which in my world means I got insanely hammered (hence the hangover post). When my boyfriend left, for some reason I decided I wanted to tell my kids about a photo slide show I’d been planning for their high school graduation parties since they were in kindergarten, set to an insanely nostalgic song from a children’s movie they had liked when they were small (below). Sloppy crying ensued. Luckily, it was like lancing a boil, and now I’m no longer plotting to ruin their big days with my over-the-top, maudlin longing.
But that, and the intense kitten yearning, made me wonder: what happens to mothering energy once it has nowhere to go? I’ve never thought of myself as particularly maternal. I did not get called to mothering easily. I resented the privations, the sleeplessness, the “it’s all about them now.” I still wanted presents and balloons on MY birthday. I still wanted the spotlight. Those felt mutually exclusive.
But somewhere the drug kicked in. I got GOOD at it. I discovered an encyclopedic recall for the whereabouts for any item they asked about, a rapid-fire ability to undo a homework logjam, a deep appreciation for our inside jokes. I really liked them. I complained about chauffeuring them about, but took a secret pride in always being there to do it. I saw them reaching further, knowing more, than I had when I was 10-15 years older than they are, and I felt a fierce pride. I did that. Me. It was my greatest achievement.
But, like all important achievements, at some point, they’re achieved. My daughter is about to be a high school senior, my son one year behind. Yes, I know that doesn’t mean GONE gone. But it no longer means soccer games and science projects. A kitten would need me constantly.
Some people (writer people) say books become your babies. Maybe. I certainly look forward to touring more in the next couple of years. But it doesn’t quite have the same immediacy of survival to it. If I don’t buy food, kids and kittens don’t eat. And there’s something addictive about that responsibility.