In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance there's a section, early on, that suggests that we can never know what our life would have been like *if*.
If only I'd taken that high school teaching job upstate then... Then--nothing. Enormous gratification and success? Killed by drunk driving teenager on back country road? Impossible to know.
If only I'd kept dating that millionaire then... Then--nothing. Spa treatments and expensive clothing that fits me well? Lost at sea on the family yacht? Again, not worth imagining, because I didn't.
The image we've all grown up with is that of standing at a crossroads--looking ahead at all the possible paths. Our lives as the Game of Life, with all the colored squares laid out ahead. A stack of baby-pegs wait to be plugged into our cars. And will it be college and debt or shall we skip college and have lower paying jobs but get out there more quickly?
But imagine our backs are to that crossroads, and we can't peek over our shoulder. We're falling backwards through life--NOT walking forwards. We can only *know* what's already happened. We don't know anything else.
I liked that concept so much that I stopped reading the book.
If we hadn't had a third child--maybe we'd have been on a safari by now. Maybe we'd have been captured by rebel forces, stampeded by elephants.
If we hadn't had a third child, maybe I'd have gotten a Masters degree (in anything!). Maybe I'd have had a series of successful art shows. A retrospective at the Whitney? Maybe I'd have been slammed by reviewers.
Maybe I'd have written a book. Maybe Oprah would have had me on her show to tell me in person how offended she was by it. Maybe I'd be in a padded cell right now.
There is no way of knowing what our life would be like if we didn't have Piper. But motorcycles be damned, I have a few hunches.
Bedtime might run like clockwork, and involve long luxurious story time. Maybe we'd have read all of the Harry Potter books.
Maybe we'd have family game nights every night and protecting our scrabble tiles wouldn't be a crucial part of the experience.
I'd have won volunteer-of-the-year awards at the elementary school, the halls of which would be filled with imaginative and important murals overseen--of course--by me, Mom of the Year.
We'd pop over to London for long weekends several times a year.
Car trips wouldn't involve repeated playings of the Wonderpets soundtrack.
We could sit wherever we want in the minivan--and at the dinner table.
We wouldn't run out of ketchup every few weeks.
I'd enroll my daughter in as many after school programs as she wanted. Her friends could come over and play and they wouldn't have to find ways to include a grabby three year old at every turn.
We'd sleep in til eight, at least, on the weekends.
We'd have forgotten the numbers for the PBS channels, and we'd never have to hear the Barney song again.
When I was pregnant with her another mom stood in the playground and told me, while her own number 3 clutched her leg and sucked his thumb, that she often wondered what life would be like without him and that sometimes she thought it would have been a lot nicer.
I shuddered at her insensitivity then (judged her, told the story to other disapproving moms, all that bad mom stuff). And I think about her all the time now.
I could end this rant with a list of touching 'of courses'--(of course we love her ferociously, of course we wouldn't be a family without her, of course...of course of course--) but that would be so predictable and wouldn't really match the mood I was in when the first few sentences of this popped into my head as I brushed my teeth before going to bed a few moments ago.
We can't know what it would have been like without her.
There may have been no NOW for us. There may have been MORE now for us.
She's here. Now there are three. And sometimes it's too much.
7 years ago