I was going out for my sister-in-law’s 40th birthday in two hours, and was curled in the fetal position on the living-room floor with barely enough energy to lift my head. One minute I was battling dragons with Julius; the next, my eyes were drooping. When Julius’ dragon swooped in for the kill, I fell over onto the carpet. It was one of those exhausted mommy moments, where even trying to stay awake was torture. I needed to sleep. I would cry if I couldn’t.
I closed my eyes. Semi-conscious, random thoughts ran thru my brain. What will I wear tonight…? How much did I eat today…? I must have dozed, (probably because of my boring thoughts) because I was startled awake by someone sitting on me. It was Michael. “I want milk, mommy.”
“Go way.” I mumbled, but he may not have heard me, as my face was mushed into the carpet, slightly dampened with my drool.
“Mommy I want milk,” He repeated and started bobbing up and down.
“Get off.” I complained in an unflattering, whiny voice. Michael just continued rocking back and forth. “Okay. Okay.” I shifted my body, causing Michael to slide off and sat up. Adjusting my eyes, I looked at the clock. 5:48pm. Crap! That woke me. I was supposed to leave in less than half an hour. I picked myself up and went to dress. (Yes, I got Michael milk, don’t worry.)
It took 15 minutes to get myself to the door and the next 15 minutes to actually step outside it. At 7 and 10 years-old, Michael and Tyler, are better about me going out than little Julius. With him, there’s a drawn out routine of mounting anxiety, 20-50 massive hugs and kisses, until he finally puts on his brave face and backs slowly away waving “Bye-Bye.” He looks like a water fountain with someone holding their thumb over the nozzle, one second away from bursting.
Finally, I closed the door on Howard and the boys, and walked to the car swinging my overnight bag. My former fatigue had abated and was replaced with the caffeine-crack called FREEDOM. I was liberated! No making dinner, cleaning up, getting milk, playing dragons, mediating arguments or bed-time duty tonight! I picked up my sister-in-law and friends and drove to the Gansevoort Hotel on Park Avenue, singing the whole way.
We are checked in by a pretty girl with an accent (Scandinavian?) and go to the room to drop our bags. The room is modern art deco, but all the pictures on the walls have a similar theme – sex. A little weird, but the mattress is cushy and plush. I could be happy just staying here and going to bed. Now that turns me on. I am old. I am tired. I am a loser. Now just hand me my book and bowl of ice cream and get out.
I don’t say this of course. We’re here to celebrate. Howard’s baby sister is no longer the teenager with dark lipstick, bad bangs, oversized clothes – and the messiest room. Now she’s a natural mom, with the most gorgeous hair, genuine style – and the messiest room. Some things don’t change.
After visiting the roof bar and going to dinner, we are finally ready to go out. It’s 10:45pm, my usual bedtime. The night is gorgeous. There’s a huge line to get into the club at our hotel. Pause. Should we even leave the hotel? It seems pretty popular. Why waste time and money to do the same thing we’d do right here? I look to my cohorts. They are already stepping into a cab. Apparently, I think like a suburban mom. We head downtown.
I remember a time when getting proofed was nerve-wracking because I was using a fake ID, then there were a few years of smug pride after I turned 21 (take that bouncers!). By the time I was 30, I was pleased to be proofed, and that warm, appreciative feeling lasted for years (Yes, I’m over 21. Giggle giggle.)
Tonight, when I handed my license to an oversized, young man who shined an interrogation light in my face, I was a cougar in a bar filled with drunken cubs. He knew it. I knew it. It took a few nasty tasting shots before I was ultimately able to erase my shame. We popped in to a few more places, then hailed a cab back uptown to our hotel. Practical, suburban mom secretly tsks.
The line at our hotel’s club is still out the door, but we are guests and get right in. It is loud, dark and crowded. Everyone is young, drunk and dancing. We get drinks and dance a little too, but I am very aware that my knees ache and the high sandals I am wearing are no longer comfortable. The 25 year-olds around us don’t seem affected by the same casual complaints. I appreciate watching them. They are at once, insecure and over-confident, trying too hard or too little. Who are they? Who will they be? Their world is still a frightening and fascinating open highway.
We dance some more and then there’s the collective nod all around. It’s time to go. It’s almost 2am. Respectable. I give an inner cheer. I made it and had fun. I look to my sister-in-law and friends. I remember back when we were the ages of the people in these bars; throwing up in the bathroom and making out with the bartender (Uh, them, not me. 😉 ). It is a long time ago and a minute. Very much changed and all the same. Time is a funny thing.
At 40, some might say it’s all down-hill, but I say, the view is better and it’s a lot easier than climbing to the top, especially with these knees.