I ran across this picture when I was going through some old things the other day. It’s a picture of Bowie, but I caught a glimpse of myself in the background, and just stared in awe. And got a little weepy.
I know that we are at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in this picture, held each October in San Francisco. And judging by Bowie’s age, I’d say it was 2009. I want to jump into that picture, and pull younger me aside and tell her so many things.
I want to tell her to cherish each day. Things are good for her now, and that could change at the drop of a hat. And it will. I will tell her to be patient with Bowie. He’s going through something they haven’t figured out quite yet. School will be difficult for him. But lay the foundation for a good relationship with him, and it will soften the blow.
I want to tell her to get help for her anxiety. It is not all in her head. It is not “normal.” It is something that can be overcome. And it would be best to get in tip top mental shape before things changed. Because they do.
And I will tell her to go easy on the wine. Just a few glasses a week. And don’t dive in head first after a hard day. That’s what the emotional help is for. Things can spiral out of control before you even realize it. And they will.
I want to tell her she will soon be hit with more sorrow than she’s ever known. Her second baby will die after just two months inside her, and her life will be flipped completely upside down. She will not know who to turn to. What to say. How she is “supposed” to feel. It’s ok to want to scream when someone tells her it was “meant to be.” It’s ok to feel like nothing is right anymore. It’s ok to not be ok. She will go on to have two more happy, healthy babies. And no, she won’t ever forget the one she lost.
And I will hand her a bottle of sunscreen. Like that old Baz Luhrmann song from the 90s. (Which I just listened to again and all of that. I’d tell her all of that.) “Wear sunscreen.” Most of the damage that would cause the melanoma will likely have occurred by then, but it can’t hurt to put on some extra protection. And I’ll give her the number of a great dermatologist in San Francisco.
I will also tell her to snuggle her cat Nashua very close. He’s senile and loud and losing teeth and is overall kind of annoying, now that she’s a mother. But her time with him is limited. (She knows this, it’s often on her mind. But she doesn’t know just how soon he will pass.) She will regret those nights she let him howl instead of picking him up and holding him close. Don’t let that happen.
And I will tell her to hold on to San Francisco very tightly. The city is in the early stages of an economic upheaval that will force even her, relatively well-off at that time, to leave. Go to the beach every single day. Do not complain about the fog. Do not complain about the “heat.” Catch a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge every day. And just know that what you have there is special. You will leave, and it will be sad, but if you squeeze what you can from the city, you will be ok. Take pictures of your houses, because the boys will ask what they looked like. And though the pictures are vivid in your mind, the kids will forget.
And I will tell her how freaking beautiful she is. Yes, she is overweight and yes, it bothers her very much. But look at that genuine smile. It will be one of the last full smiles she will be able to muster ever again. And that lovely hair. No wiry black and white hair peeking through. Look at that plump face. No crows feet yet. No sun spots. You don’t feel beautiful, I will tell her, but you are. And in 9 years, you will look back and wish you still looked like that. That your son was still so small. Your life still so very happy and simple.
I will tell her to brace for the change. Because I wish I had been ready.
Life just keeps marching forward and you’re just along for the ride, kind of like tubing down a river. And by the time you stand up and look behind you, you’ve passed so many things. Hit your ass on so many rocks. Missed so many sights along the way. But all you can do is sit back down and keep riding along.
I will tell her that she will survive. Because she did.