You know those moments where time suddenly kind of buckles back on itself and folds into and around the present in a fitful dance of wonder and dumbfoundedness to the point that you feel like you're existing in two different places at the exact same time -- somewhere in your past and wherever you happen to be at the time -- and all you can do is just try not to reel too much and drink it in while it lasts, while everything you forgot you knew washes over you and wrestles you and bursts your heart right open there for everyone yet not actually anyone to see and it's pretty much all you can do to just breathe and remember and exist?
That happened in my kitchen last week.
I've been spending more time in there, recently, mostly due to this beauty now being in my possession and a newfound-ish desire to, you know, actually do housewifely things while I'm at home in my PJ's all day, and this of course has intrigued the kids and they want to be in there with me, to "help" while I'm making stuff and to generally just play in a space we previously haven't really spent much quality time in.
It's been nice, to be away from the TV the kids usually so vehemently require be on AT ALL TIMES OMG, and to be doing things that are learning-ish but are very apparently to me the building blocks of memories of their childhoods for them. I pull out this old Ikea stool that desperately needs painted and until now had hung out in my basement for years looking for a purpose, and the two of them carefully climb up on it and stand side by side watching the stand mixer spin, adding ingredients with less care and efficiency than I'd like, and finding endless joy from cracking eggs into bowls so that I can pick out the inevitable chunks of shell before adding it to my baked good du jour. I remember liking baking as a child, figuring out the measuring cups and trying to get the perfect, level amount of ingredients dispersed so that I would be seen as helping. That was the most important feeling I remember pursuing -- feeling of use, indispensable even, to the process of making something delicious. And in the mean time I learned some minor fractions and could put any Piaget test to shame far beyond what my age would otherwise indicate because duh, Mommy, it's the same amount of water in each glass even if one is tall and thin and one is short and fat because I watched you measure it out and it was the same.
I can't explain the shapes/colors/pattern grouping thing I did, though, as part of my mom's Master's thesis. As I understand it, I blew her teacher out of the water with that one. I was five. And special.
On this particular occasion I was working on making dough for homemade cinnamon rolls and the kids had gotten slightly bored with the process and were both entertained with mixing bowls and wooden spoons on the floor -- Tova was using her items like a drum, whereas Kiedis was reenacting scenes from Ratatouille like a looped GIF except with the gift of repetitive sound -- when I had the brilliant idea to turn on Spotify on the iPad while I also used it to find the recipe I wanted from Pinterest.
Twenty-First Century, you so crazy and futuristic and connected.
A couple of days prior, I'd had a great Twitter exchange with one of my closest real-life friends about the music we used to listen to when we were in high school, which had been prompted by me mentioning that Kyle was, at the time, listening to his Spotify stations while doing the dishes and it felt like every single song that came on was an immediate time warp to half my lifetime ago, but in the best of ways, like listening to an old mixtape given to you by that middle school crush because he thought you might like it and instantly being able to remember the smell of that coat he let you borrow that one day on your class retreat, while he did the ropes course you were too terrified to try yourself.
So, inspired by that conversation and the memory of the sounds of that one playlist, I veered from my usual channels and began a radio station based on an old favorite, a band I'd quite actually had forgotten nearly completely about, and went about my housewifery as if I hadn't just opened the Pandora's Box of my angsty teenage soul.
Well, for about five minutes, anyway.
The first few songs were happy reminders of oh yeah, I remember this but with every thumbs-up and skip I added to the station to better improve my listening experience, the songs shifted slightly and there I was, in the middle of a crowded dive bar at a show harmonizing with the makeshift outcast chorus; I was driving down the interstate with my windows down as the early summer sun set over the farmland horizon, singing along with every word at the top of my lungs with overwhelming conviction as if I'd written those words myself; I was on the couch in the living room, trying to make the perfect (to me) playlist for my wedding, not yet knowing every note I hummed was echoing around a bundle of cells splitting at an impossible pace, quickly carving out new identities for all parties involved.
And I was standing in my kitchen, with my two kids playing on the floor, baking sweets, while my teenage self looked on through my eyes and barely whispered whoa, so this is what this looks like and I nodded in agreement, yep, this is what it is, what we are now.
I'd done what I promised my(now younger)self I'd never do -- I'd forgotten how good the music was. So it took the opportunity to remind me when I was least prepared for it, for the familiarity to shock me with what I used to eat, sleep, breathe.
All the while, the songs that tattooed themselves to me at those precise moments filled the air around me and my oblivious children, one after another refusing to relent upon forcing me down this existential path in some tear in the space-time continuum, having me stride hand-in-hand with the girl I once was as I looked at her with a mother's eyes and she at me with a heart full of optimistic defiance.
Until I realized that my children weren't so oblivious, as they looked up at me with quizzical smiles from the checkerboard linoleum, and I realized that I had their rapt attention because while I was so far away in my mind, in front of them, I was singing. I was singing in a way they'd never heard from me before -- loud, unapologetic, showing signs of the slight training that occurred nearly a decade ago and the rehearsal of a rebellious, sleeve-worn heart-led youth. This voice was different than the soft one that sings them lullabies or the off-key one that chants the Clean Up Song and tries and fails to find the proper pitch for the rehashed movie-musical song of the day.
No, this was a voice that came from the me I was long before they existed in the slightest form -- the place I am suddenly aware they too sprang from, the center of my heart-soul place that knows only how to bleed out the feelings I hold inside, where my deepest joys and darkest sorrows coincide in a tempest of of life and death and everything that falls between and fills the voids that appear with so much more than I can consciously withstand and so I overflow -- into the words, into the music, into the symphonies that are my children -- and that which used to sustain me has fallen away in the light of their eyes, in the newness of the world I re-learn to see with them, the passion dulled in comparison to the love I contain for them.
But there, for a minute in my kitchen, I think they see a glimpse of that, of the things that filled me before they did, perhaps even the shadow of the woman-child I once was before I was a woman with children.
And I smile, and they smile, almost as if a secret just passed between us of a secret identity discovered yet sworn to confidence, and like that they continue their play and the song switches over to something less familiar and all I can do is quietly revel in the moment of sharing something I love with the beings I made out of love and how, actually, that moment was the beginning of everything I'd ever hoped it would be.