We sat in the rickety, patina-ed patio chairs of the ordinarily hipster-packed Brooklyn restaurant, delighted for the first al fresco dinner of the season. There were a few other mothers there too, mostly with grown children, and I could feel their eyes on us. There was that sweet longing. That melancholy recognition of their own early Mother’s Days. You could imagine the inner dialogue, the how did my kids get to be 16/19/31 so fast?
This year, I was too tired to please everyone else. Mothers, stepmothers, mothers-in-law. This year, I decided to be selfish. I just wanted dinner with my children.
Sage sat up straight, proud to have put her napkin on her lap. Thalia lead her in a very quiet rendition of the Itsy Bitsy Spider. I toasted to the man who impregnated me (good new kindergarten vocabulary word) and to Thalia for making me a mother, and to Sage for making us the family that we are.
Sage chair-hopped from her chair to Nate’s to mine. Thalia helped Sage count the four days left until her birthday. Sage refused to eat. Thalia devoured a wad of blue cheese and an entire bowl of pasta, and deigned to try an artichoke. I tried to entice her to eat asparagus by telling her how cool it would be to smell her pee afterward, but was promptly scolded for inappropriate dinner conversation–this from the guy who has taught them to start every knock knock joke with “fart.”
We tried fruitlessly to keep the girls in their seats as we crept toward the 90 minute mark. The patio crowd didn’t seem to disapprove, and so our pleas for them to settle down were mostly for show, as they twirled and named the flowers in the garden and put on general displays of little girl cuteness that they won’t be able to get away with much longer.
They scraped at the “wet cream” of the top of the salted caramel custard, and nothing we could say to get them to sample the miracle of caloric perfection below that white layer. Sage wondered why there was no big cake that said HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY LIZ with a candle on it. Isn’t that the symbol of all things celebratory?
I ran through the card in my head, the one in which Nate had written the kinds of things that keep you going when you think you just don’t have it in you anymore.
I felt my new necklaces in my fingers, the dainty black heart that Sage had chosen “because I love you” and the dainty gold star that Thalia had chosen “because a star is something amazing and you are amazing and I love you.”
“They couldn’t choose between them,” Nate said, “and so we got both.”
Earlier in the day, a delivery man in our building lobby whispered to Nate, These are the best years of your life. I think it might be true.