The college kid at the top of the water slide called me Ma’am.
Your turn M’aam. My three year old stood behind me in line, doe-eyed and dripping wet. She nudged me on with a phrase that contained the same letters, just rearranged: Your turn Mama!
And this is what I’ve become: Mama and Ma’am.
I’m the mother in a swim skirt who goes down the slide so she can catch her kids when they’re deposited at the bottom.
I’m the baby-holder. The doctor’s wife. The bargain hunter, the drier of tears.
I’m the kisser of boo boos, the enforcer of time outs. The shussher in church. The wearer of wrinkle cream.
This morning I caught a glimpse of myself in the hallway mirror, my almost 35 year old face forehead to forehead with my reflection. I inspected it for traces of the girl I know.
The one who heads down 94 East between Ann Arbor and Detroit each day for her internship, wearing too short skirts and singing along to Radiohead.
The one who lives in an upstairs apartment in Charlottesville and who dreams about her future.
The girl who pays her phone bill late because she’d rather buy concert tickets or $200 jeans.
Where’d she go?
There are days I miss that girl. I miss her Saturday night stories on Sunday mornings, her weekend marathon phone calls with friends. I miss her sense that life was just about to happen for her, that it could take flight in any direction, that a decision could be made on a lark.
But I don’t miss her selfishness. Her impulsiveness. The anxiety she felt when she woke at 3 am, terrified, immobilized, unsure. I don’t miss the sense of being unsettled, untethered, a free agent. A child.
It’s tempting to see the past through rose-colored glasses. The size 2s and after parties, the road trips and too much wine. But 22 is also tears on pillows and heartbreak and hanging up the phone. It’s crying when that song comes on. It’s hangovers and disappointment and crap jobs and insufficient funds.
It’s hanging on to the last shreds of adolescence while trying to look like a grown up in a Banana Republic pantsuit.
It’s not knowing yourself very well. Taking risks that don’t pan out. Wondering when life is finally going to start.
The almost 35 year old woman leaned closer and closer to that girl in the mirror and whispered the words It all turns out ok.
And it has.