As luck would have it, two kids – Neighbor Boy, eight and Neighbor Girl, five – live just down the road from us. They’ve come over several times to play and on Friday, Julia went over to their house for the first time. I stood at the gate and watched her dash excitedly across the driveway and into their yard while my emotions went to battle.
The proud parent in me was swelling, all, “My little girl, playing at someone else’s house for the first time…a childhood rite of passage. She’s growing up!” The rest of me, however, was screaming, “This growing up business is happening too f**** fast! Stop growing up, dammit!”
Not wanting to hang out with the girls, Neighbor Boy quickly made his way over to our yard to hang out with Oliver and play Titanic at our water table. I was sitting on the patio chatting with them when I heard Neighbor Boy say something about a teenager. I asked him to repeat himself and that’s when he said the Best Thing Ever:
“You look like a teenager.”
I snorted. “No, I don’t,” I said. “I wish.”
He nodded his head. “Yeah, you look teenager-ish.”
I grinned. “That’s probably the nicest thing you could ever say to me,” I said. ‘Cause, like, I don’t care if you’re eight or eighty, if you’re telling me I look like a teenager, it’s all good. All good.
He scrunched up his face. “Why?”
“Because,” I said, laughing, “I’m nowhere near being a teenager. Those days are long behind me.”
He looked at me for a minute. “Really? Wow.”
I’ve decided that he can come over any time he wants.
One afternoon a few weeks before my mum died she told me I’d probably find things hidden in her house when I started to clean it out. I smiled to myself when she said that, because she was famous for squirreling things away and not being able to find them later. She told me there was one thing she had bought for me and that when I found it, I’d know right off that it was for me. “Enjoy it,” she whispered, squeezing my hand.
As promised, I came across something underneath the loveseat in her living room wrapped in tissue paper and a bath towel shortly after her death. When I opened it up I remembered our conversation and knew I’d found what she had been talking about: a large, hand-painted Mexican plate. Thick, made of clay and very heavy, the face boasted a brightly painted Mexican village, the detail so keen and beautiful that I sat with it on my lap, my heart in my throat, and stared at it for several minutes, tears dripping into my lap.
It was one of the last things I packed before we moved here because I wanted to enjoy it for as long as I could. When I took it down I thought to myself that I ought to take a picture of it, whenever we decide to shell out for a new digital camera, and blog about it. This is too cool of a plate not to share, I thought. I wrapped it up and put it in a box with two stained glass lampshades, a box that I knew wouldn’t go on the truck but in one of our cars, where it would be safer.
The Sunday after we moved, Dave and I had lost our patience with one another. Okay, not really. Truth is, I had lost patience with him, with unpacking, with the kids being off the wall…with everything. I was tired and sore and bitchy and Aunt Blood was on her way over. I was being a big fat bitch and Dave was doing whatever he could to stay out of my way.
I was upstairs changing Oliver’s diaper when he appeared in the doorway, a serious look on his face.
“Something is broken,” he said.
“Great!” I said sarcastically. “Awesome. What is it?”
He sighed. “The Mexican plate,” he said quietly.
I felt like someone was squeezing my lungs really really hard. I put my head down and let the sobs bubble up from my chest. Dave came over and wrapped his arms around me and Oliver stood up on his fire engine bed and hugged my legs. “Oh, Mummy,” he whispered into my knees.
I cried. For a long time. I cried for my mom and for the plate and because I was mad at myself for being careless, for not making sure it was packed more carefully. I cried because I have so many things that remind me of my mom but this plate, this one thing that was so special to me got smashed and I really had no one but myself to blame.
Dave says he’ll fix it. It’s broken in three pieces, he says, clean breaks, and that once it gets glued it’ll be as good as new. But I told him not to bother. I don’t want to look at it and see the cracks, see that it’s been repaired. It won’t be the same that way.
I want to remember it the way it was, bright and beautiful.