Karen Rivers

some entirely separate thoughts about the same thing.

Karen Rivers

My daughter's arm has the exact girth of the circle I can make with my thumb and middle finger.  While she is at school, I hold my hand up and look at the size of that circle.  It's so small.  She's so small.  I forget sometimes.  She seems so grown up, in contrast to what she once was.  It's all a Fleetwood Mac song because I'm getting older, too.   And it's autumn again and outside the blue sky looks closer to white as though it knows what's coming.   Well, we all know what's coming, or we think we do, which is really the same thing.   

 

All year, I've thought I was forty-six.  It turns out that I'm only forty-five.  That's a bit like finding a $20 bill in the pocket of your last-year's coat.   Free money!  You can spend it however you want.  I'm going to spend the year on myself, doing something.   I don't know what.  Honestly, whenever someone says, "You should do something for yourself!", my brain immediately pictures a mani/pedi.  I've never had one.  I hate it when people touch my feet and the casual intimacy of someone painting my fingernails would send me into intense panic so I continue to have plain nails, and will always wince when people say that thing they say about "having some me time!".   

There are very few times when I feel like an adult.  One of these times is when I peel vegetables into the sink.  The feel of the loose peels against my skin as I scoop them when I'm done for the compost -- I can't explain it -- but that handful of peels makes me into my mother and her mother and all the mothers before them.  

My children still don't like to go to bed.  They have never once, not even one single time, gone to bed simply and easily at bed time and they are older than you probably think.  I'm not exaggerating when I say it's never happened.  It has literally never happened.  What I like best about this story is that I'm always convinced that tonight will be different, tonight they will probably just lie down and go to sleep and I will be free to be an adult, whatever that entails, maybe it means reading on the couch or peeling vegetables with reckless abandon or writing a blog post without being shouted at.  I have hope, which is ridiculous, because the situation is hopeless.  My son is almost as tall as me.  Soon, he'll be six feet tall, shouting, "MUM" from his bed because he's just had an idea about a remote-control helicopter.  "Are you sick?"  I call back. "Are you bleeding?  Are you on fire?"  "No," he yells.  "Then GO TO SLEEP," I say.  Again.  Again again again again again.

Tonight, post kid-bed-time, I planned to sit and edit photos and maybe drink a beer or eat an ice cream sandwich, or ideally both, with my feet up.  I'd been thinking all afternoon about how the great part about being an adult is that you can have BOTH a beer and an ice cream and that's a perfectly valid choice you can make, one which I don't exercise regularly enough.  But again and again my son emerged from the bedroom, over and over.  I truly felt like I was going crazy, like I won't ever again have the opportunity to edit photos with my feet up over a beer and some ice cream and why can he not understand this?  I feel like at this point, I shook my fist at the heavens.   I don't know if I really did or if I just narrated that in, in my head.

"I thought you'd understand," my son said, plaintively.  

"Go to bed," I said, "NOW."

I know that they will grow up and eventually leave and (theoretically) put themselves to bed and I'll have nothing but minutes that are empty chambers echoing the "mum mum mum mum MUM" calls that ricochet around in the hall long past lights-out, long past the time when any child should be awake on a school night.  When that happens, I know that I will think, "This is boring, this editing and beer and ice cream, I miss them."  I already miss them.  I miss them right now and they are still awake, waiting for their opportunity to call me again so I'll have to stop typing and try to be patient and say, "Yes, but you must go to sleep now or else tomorrow you'll be so tired, I'll be so tired, even the dog will be so tired."  And they say, "Yes, fine, but what should we dream about?"  Then I'll write them a dream.   Another one and another.  They need choice now.  It's getting harder as they get older.  I should compile a book.  Every night, they can just pull out three pages.   This probably doesn't make sense because I keep getting interrupted.   The dogs sleep through the whole thing now.  The smallest dog sneaks under the couch when my voice becomes raised though. 

What I'm saying is that if your kids go to bed when you say, "Bed time!" and you're allowed to remain cheerful and not have to shout, "I'll take your laptop away for six months if you don't go to sleep right this minute!" and they let you get away with a hug and a kiss and a story then you did something right.  The important thing.  The best thing.  You did that.  Yay you!   I don't know what it was. If you know, can you tell me?  Maybe I can do it now, whatever baby-training did the trick.  I wrack my brain but come up with nothing.  What did I forget to do?  "MUM," one of them called just now, with perfect sit-com timing.   

Last night, there was a supermoon red eclipse that either did or did not mean it's the end of the world or the second coming of Christ or something else that no one's guessed correctly yet.  From my living room window, where I see hundreds of beautiful moonrises, the moon looked small and pale, like an elderly frail moon was going to be playing the part of the moon for tonight's performance of the SUPERMOON RED ECLIPSE.  I felt sorry for it but I was also irritated because it was impossible to photograph and anyway the battery in my camera died and my daughter had a flashlight that strobed and my son was cold, outside in his pyjamas.  I checked social media to make sure everyone was seeing what I was seeing and were equally disappointed that the moon was out sick and the stand-in would be performing (badly) tonight, and it turned out everyone else was actually seeing a life-changing SUPERMOON RED ECLIPSE.   It still makes no sense to me that someone two streets over was having a capital-E Experience and I was just frustrated because the kids, in the dark, began to fight.  

I'm sure all of that is a metaphor for something.  Tonight, the moon was spectacular.  I bet that hardly anyone looked at it though.  They looked at it last night and probably there's something they'd rather be watching on Netflix.   Everything is a metaphor.  I've been feeling very judgemental lately.   I don't like that about myself.  I think the problem was that there was so much hype about the Supermoon Red Eclipse that there was no way it was going to measure up, sort of like THE TITANIC and all those other films I never saw because I assumed they couldn't possibly be as good as "everyone" said they were.  

I've been writing a novel that's (peripherally) about time.  Try this:  Define 'time' to someone who doesn't know anything about the concept already.  

It's harder than you think.  Believe me.  There are a lot of theories about time.  They all can only be theories, ever.  It's not like one will rise to the top and be "right" because it's all theory.  Time itself is theoretical.   The whole thing about time is that I feel like I only understand the very very very very edge of it, like I'm trying to hold on to understanding all these theories, but I barely can because my grasp of what it is, what it means, is so small.  

If you want to feel completely awed, I suggest you start reading about how it's theoretically possible that an infinite number of versions of yourself exist simultaneously.  This also has to do with time.  In such an alternate universe, an infinite number of versions of my kids are NOT going to sleep when they should, and an infinite number of mes are thinking about mani/pedis and carrot peelings.


 

I hope my kids forget about how truly unbelievably frustrating bed time was for their entire childhood.  I hope they delete that memory, along with that time I made them eat that kiwi fruit or forgot that school let out early and they had to wait in the hall.  I hope all they remember are the summers: the long stretches of ocean and jumping into it, whales in the distance blowing their songs across the strait, hiking up the hot dusty roads, the way the blackberries taste best straight from the bush.   I hope they remember hot chocolate and riding bikes to the corner store for ice cream, climbing the mountain behind the house and finding hidden treasures in the woods.  I hope I did something right, something worth remembering, something that makes the mistakes seem smaller and fainter than the rest of everything, a pale stand-in for the only things that ever really mattered at the end of the day.