When I was teeny tiny, I read or overhead grown-ups talking about the poem, “Warning” [When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple], by Jenny Joseph, and thought “Why wait?” I wore purple all of the time, and still do now, along with every other bright hue. I figure that they all match by virtue of all being bright. But I also now have a few good reasons to settle down for a little while. I will keep my obnoxious wardrobe pallet, but I may also nap and sip tea instead of partying quite so hard as I used to.
I settle onto my quiet couch at the end of the day and savor the three minutes of peace that I have after the kids go to bed and before I pass out myself. I keep a few hobbies and precious moments of “me time,” but I orient my days towards chasing chubby knees and kissing sweaty necks. I am remembering how much I enjoy sniffing flowers, cooking macaroni and cheese and pushing swings. I keep track of sunscreen, water bottles, bedtimes, medications and important soccer dates. I genuinely enjoy and try to relax into the pudgy pools of bright blue that squint on my toddlers face before he throws a wild tantrum in a public place, confirming for all that my childrearing skills are as awful as they suspected based on my wild haircut and dirty jeans.
I have always wanted to parent. I chose to parent. I adore parenting. I will miss it when my brood is grown. And I strive to recall those facts and record the daily joys that surround me, even as I sometimes miss out on the old kinds of fun that I used to have – adult kinds of fun, simply, accidentally, casually, just by waking up in the morning. I no longer have the energy, time or money to go to all of the shows, restaurants, dances and bars that I’d enjoy. Instead, I have a porch covered in exuberant chalk art, bins full of wholegrain snacks and my palms full of sticky fingers begging me to follow and look. My heart is (often happily) trapped by the wants and needs of little creatures and an adult partner whose requests, sorrows and joys I genuinely want to meet, even if they constantly interfere with my own ability to go climb a tree, take a bath, feed myself or read a book cover to cover in one sitting. I don’t remember the last time that I was certain that any particular pop song was actually new, or even current.
I am pleased with my life as a parent and am thoroughly attempting to soak it up like a sponge, but I do have other daydreams. Some of these dreams, like going to a folk show late at night, can be facilitated by a babysitter, even if it’s expensive and I’m exhausted the next day. I can stay on top of my career a smidgen by volunteering in my field, while I work most other days without pay or any gratitude other than my offspring’s health and variable mood. I can stay as queer as possible by performing my own gender and sexuality 24/7 and by allowing my little minion infinite gender options, which he largely dismisses in favor of normative choices. I can read, write and catch up on all things worldly in the thirty seconds between stick-him-in-the-crib-and-walk-away time and I-fell-asleep-in-my-clothes-again time. All of these tiny selfhood victories are mine, but I also have high hopes for more.
If the gods above and bellow are willing – and I have high hopes that they are, because it is often sunny for Pride – and I live long enough to reach some semblance of retirement, I shall become, again, far less responsible. I don’t work in any field that will afford me the money to have a faaaaabulous retirement in a cruises-and-beach-house sense, but I am going to live it up anyway. Again. A second adolescence, should my body and mind permit.
I will leave my grown children in their own care or with an appropriate institution and/or guardian, with naught but my emergency email contact and a vague travel itinerary. I will work whatever job neccisary to purchase my next trip to a country of my choice that my partner is too scared and dubious of to visit with me. I will carry as much weight in my backpack as my old bones will allow. I will groan loudly and with great relish when I stand up out of my hammock in the morning (pregnancy is great practice for this). I will speak other languages earnestly but very badly. I will devour foods that I had until then only heard about. I will harass my children for grandchildren so that I may spoil them appropriately with treasures that I pick up along the way.
I will lock myself in a tiny shed of my own design, with only sweat pants and junk food (or green smoothies and celery, depending on my mood), to either read or write as long as pleases me. I will fully hydrate myself and then give myself a massive headache with whichever variety of alcohol pleases my depravity, and then I will curse that I tried to drink like a teenager who has a good liver and nothing to do but sleep.
Sleep, of course I will sleep – napping, drooling, snoring. Boom. Twice a day maybe. And stay up late watching Buffy when I have ruined my sleep schedule by dozing. I will struggle to remain liberal and progressive in the face of issues that seem silly and wrong to me. I will live on the ridiculous bingo, gardening and volunteer schedules I have set up for myself and thrive on the happy memories of the intoxicating baby faces that I smothered with kisses. I will fawn over pictures of familial cuteness and tell long-winded stories to anyone who will half-listen.
So, I wear purple ties now, as I stoop down to preschoolers’ lines of sight, and I will help all in my care to dress in purple as they please, but, oh, someday I will wear even more purple again. My cane will be purple, my bubble pipe and rocking chair will be purple. My ointment-stained trousers with fraying suspenders will be purple. The neighbors will turn purple as the grouchy old man with saggy boobs under a purple shirt stands up and swears like a sailor at the weeds encroaching on my herb garden. If I have to use food coloring to make my beer purple, I will. I love my domestic life, but as soon as I can look out for myself more than others again, I am going to build a tree house and streak to it, flipping the bird and flashing my purple tattoos.