I always think of men as the ones who use dog walking to escape the reality of their beleaguered home-life. That 15-minute break from the chaos and monotony of being married with children. But recently, as I walked my dog, I was amazed at the contrast between the din in my living room and the quiet of a cold, wintery day in early March. Dead, wet leaves and litter were scattered across brown grass and the blackened remains of snow. I knew that, back at my house, the one-year old was banging on a metal bowl and the two year old was screaming at the top of her lungs. Outside in the chilled air, trotting along next to my white shepherd as he sniffed and urinated, my migraine, which had been brewing all day, was receding. My shoulders were relaxing. I thought of the men who go out for cigarettes and never come back. I had no desire to leave my family. I just thought about those men, who couldn’t handle the noise, the tedium, the love mixed with fear. Then my MP3 player started playing a song that dropped me right back into my life as a single 29-year old in Albuquerque, New Mexico. You know how songs can transport you back, to the 8th grade dance, the first week of college. Or life as a single woman in another state? Another life, practically.
I walked the dog and remembered that life. I compared it to my life today. I was very happy back then. But I wanted to someday have the life I have today, minus the 8-5 job. I think that, when you marry later in life, (in my case, I met my future husband when I was 37), you have lived alone for so long, that it feels like a very permanent part of your world, even after you are married.
Later that day, I was out to dinner with just my husband. It happened that we were celebrating my 42nd birthday on that wintery March day, and his sister was watching our kids. It was our first anything alone, without the kids, in about three months. I said, “I think that the thing I miss most about being single is the amount of time I had to reflect on my life and think deeply about my world.” He felt the same. He was even older than me and thus had spent even more time than I had in the solitude of single life.
“But, as you always say,” he said, “this is temporary.”
Our time with this one and two year old, that is. Children grow, and as they get older, they get more independent. We wouldn’t live in this non-stop chaos forever. In fact, it would be over quickly. Within a few more years it would all be gone: our daughter saying, as we carried her, “Oh Aggie, you’re getting so big!” Or our son, standing on tippy toes to reach the piano keys. Or handing us his teddy bear in the morning. Or saying “dada” for the first few times. Our daughter, hitting the high notes of the last verse of happy birthday. Or running as fast as she could but taking only the tiniest little steps, like children of that age do. Or saying "Dammit!" and watching for our reaction. Or any of the hundreds of heart wrenching, smiling, tears to the eyes with joy moments of life with very little children, that we experienced every single day.
When I came home from my walk, my son ran to the baby gate to greet me with chatter and a smile. My daughter called from across the room, “Welcome home mommy and Seeky-dog.” Our dog. He’s another remnant of my single life. He was mine. His name used to be Seeker. Sometimes I called him Seek. It used to be, Julie and Seeker. When daughter was 17-months, she started calling him “Seeky-dog,” just as she called her father “Baby-daddy” and me “Baby-mommy.” My son’s first word was “Seeky-dog.” Now, Seeker will forever be Seeky-dog now, just as I will forever be “mommy.” This age won’t last forever, but the remnants will. I hope I remember them all. I look forward to the songs that will drop me back into this world. Someday someone will probably look at me, and just see an old lady. Maybe I’ll be hobbling along on a walker. But I expect I’ll have some headphones in my ears and will be listening to some music, which will be dropping me back into this moment, with this noise, and these children, and this husband, and this dog, and house. And I won’t want the song to end. And I won’t want to play it so often that it’s transporting quality loses its effect. Because I won’t want to forget these days. These wonderful, exhausting, magical days.