On Facebook, I'm friends with several of #1 Son's friends, and I always enjoy seeing their updates. I guess they're old enough now at 24 or 25 that it's no longer embarrassing to be friends with their friends' parents. After all, I was married and expecting a child at that age. Not that I want them to do that, any of them, because there's no need to be in a hurry. But as much as I feel that way, I'm glad to have that particular son, conceived and born in a particular time frame, complete with all his genetic quirks and graces. Maybe it's because I'll be 49 next Tuesday that I'm looking back across those years, seeing myself at 24, idealistic and excited and a little bit terrified at the prospect of being a mother.
I remember walking out of Clemons, the undergraduate library at the University of Virginia, where I worked while The Father of My Children was in law school, walking out at the end of a summer day in a bit of a hurry to get to the bus stop to ride back to our apartment on Copley Hill, a hive of married students and students with children. I was wearing a madras plaid dress in muted tones with a fitted bodice and buttons down the front and a full skirt, and a white cardigan, and I was just the least little bit pregnant. I hadn't told my co-workers. It was a secret, a happy and scary and life-altering secret.
This was before, not long before, but those are the clothes I was wearing, except for the white flip flops that made my feet hurt. That's the Lawn at U.Va. and I was at a party for a younger friend about to get her undergraduate degree. I was just 24. I had a job and a husband and a lot of dreams about what the future would hold, children and a station wagon and a golden retriever, maybe, even though I had never lived with a dog, and maybe those particular dreams came a little later.
After work, a few months after this picture was taken, I hurried along in a pair of white espadrilles that had stretched out a bit too much, and I lost one of them, and I fell. I fell forward and smacked against the sidewalk. I scraped the palms of my hands and I cursed the once-sprained ankle that I thought might be the culprit, but looking back I simply flew out of the shoe and hit the pavement.
I'm not writing about a loss–everything was fine in the end, in the least interfered-with pregnancy I would ever have, with the most textbook of first labors and the placing in my arms of the first person I ever knew who was truly related to me. That was all still to come.
But in that moment, when I hit the pavement in my madras dress and my white sweater and those darned espadrilles, I felt it could all be lost. That was the day I began to learn that when you're carrying a treasure–a secret, an idea, a love–it's not enough to simply look ahead starry-eyed; you have to know where you're putting your feet, too.