taking inventory of a former life

Today is as good a day as any to think about how smart I once was and how much people respected me for my brain. It didn’t work too badly, either – my brain, I mean. I could do math and chemistry and command big strong men to move gears and operate machinery. Easy. Things have changed, though. My domain has shrunk a bit in social stature and now consists of two recalcitrant children, a white-trash rental home, and (in a limited fashion) a techie geek husband. Now I am respected by family and friends for my tits, my guttermouth, and my ability to carry huge loads of children and groceries simultaneously. No one knows I have a brilliant mind. It – my mind – occupies itself keeping impeccible lists of what food to buy, how many diapers I have left, and if I can afford a cheap bottle of red wine on my daily budget. I am brought low.

Case in point: yesterday I ran into a man – incidentally, old enough to be my grandfather, although it doesn’t really matter – who I worked with and at one time supervised on shift. Here I am, kid on one hip, the other child carrying a sack of thrift store loot trailing behind me clamoring for something sugar-laden, and I see him: “Oh hey… Hi, Phil!* How’s it going?” A pause. “Uh, fine…” he noises, friendly smile. “Oh good!” I say, nodding, nodding, as he steers his wife toward the door. When he sees I am not budging he levels with me: “I’m sorry, I’m afraid I don’t recognize you.”

Wow. Not, “Where do I know you from?” – he doesn’t know me at all. It isn’t that I look so much different – I weigh the same, hair about the same length, still in jeans and t-shirt – it’s that I’m loaded down with chilluns and they form this weird force field that magically transforms me into the ultimate nonentity who-gives-a-shit persona – a young mom. I couldn’t possibly be from his world where decisions are made and paychecks are earned and all that important shit. He would recognize a cocktail waitress or a janitor he knew from a couple years back. Nothing against cocktail waitresses and janitors (my mother and father, in earlier lives). Just that that amazing Butt-F*ck-No-One Force Field children create is so powerful as to cloud this man’s memory that I was once his boss.

I remind him gently of my name and former relevance, if you can call it that, and the conversation resumes and ends in a friendly fashion. I’m not irritated, hurt, or even surprised; this has happened before. Pretty soon I won’t exist anymore, in a particular way. Maybe I should move on and become No One. But I refuse to pretend I don’t see my ex-coworkers – I say “hi” and make eye contact even though as time passes many of them don’t know who the hell I am, as Phil* here apparently didn’t. But I know them, and they were from a life I once loved; let’s leave it at that.

So, that said, here’s my day. Did the dishes, wiggled the kids into clothes, went to the grocery store and then to a playgroup and fed my kids vast amounts of crackers, banana from the floor, whatever would keep them happy. Helped my three-year-old daughter with her golf swing. Kissed, stroked, hugged, and loved up both kids many, many times during the day. Made a resolution I would get a cigarette break at some point, a resolution that remains unfufilled.

Dinner: made Italian Wedding Soup with homemade egg bread. Called friend Joe and let him know – meatballs twice in one week! He was proud of me until I revealed Round One consisted of turkey meatballs – in his words: “a disgrace to the concept of meatballs.”

In other news – we’re gearing up for Rhody. For our family this is pretty mellow: two parades to walk in and the inaugeration of a new Gin & Tonic Season. My parents arrive tomorrow in their rig to spoil my children and buy us food. Nice. I’m looking forward to it.

* not his real name

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