Speaking of things I find fun now, my most joyous moment this week, without a doubt, was sitting on a couch watching a cooking show after dinner with Josh, Virginia, and Jazzy. And quite honestly, it’d probably make my top moments of the year, too. Is that sad?
If you’d have asked me what my top moment of the year was after college, I’d probably say, attending the U.S.A. vs. Brazil World Cup game in 1994. Or in 1996, performing in a play in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. In 1998, making my first improv team. In 2001, marrying Josh and in 2004, giving birth to Virginia and buying a house (in the same day—BOOYAH). Finding a dream job, running a marathon, completing a novel—yep, those are pretty easy moments to pick out. But lately I’ve been finding some serious joy in the every day.
And now? Seriously, the four of us piling up on our couch to watch the latest episode of Australian Master Chef is the most fun. I didn’t predict that I’d become so conventional. In fact, I’m pretty sure I prayed I would never become so boring. But I totally did! Twenty years ago, I mocked people like me—derided their conventionality, their lack of originality and zest for life. Maybe I am complacent and comfortable watching other people go after their dreams, while I sit on my couch sandwiched between Josh and Virginia with Jazz sprawled out on our laps. Does it mean I stopped having dreams, too? I don’t know. I think I used to think that people who contentedly watched TV after work had somehow traded their dreams or excitement to watch other people reach for the stars, like it was easier than reaching for the stars themselves.
Or maybe I just didn’t know how wonderful it is to sit and laugh with my family, ooh and aah at the culinary masterpieces (or sometimes less-than masterpieces) that appear before us on our television screen. Virginia talks about what she would want to cook and bake, and I can see the inspiration grow in her eyes. No, I think my mistake was writing off hanging out with family doing nothing productive as a worthy activity. It’s as much of a valid and worthwhile choice as it would be to attend the ballet or go zip lining. But frankly, after a long day, I don’t want to do any of that crap.
Virginia turned eleven last Tuesday and this Saturday, she’s inviting a bunch of friends over for a karaoke birthday celebration. She’s really looking forward to it. Me? Eh.
For just about every birthday, Virginia has wanted a party, and I try my darndest to feign enthusiasm. Most of the time the parties are a success—the kids arrive, they have fun, they eat cake, they go home. No grownups. I feel a kid’s birthday party should just be for kids. Give the grownups a break to run errands or see a movie. Or take a nap. I know I have a very narrow and limited view of kids’ birthday parties because personally, I don’t want to go to one that’s not my child’s. Leave me out of it. Once a year, I take one for the team and throw a party for my kid—that should be enough. The thought of accompanying Virginia to an afternoon birthday party where about a dozen kids are running around hopped up on Capri Sun and cake makes me break out in hives. When the adults are invited, the kid’s party turns into a kid’s party with gin and tonics. I’m sorry, but day drinking will not soften this situation. I’m angry I’m there and now fantasizing about all the grocery shopping I could be doing right now. And I hate grocery shopping.
Ugh, and can we just talk about the siblings for a sec? Every year, it seems one clueless parent will bring all of their kids to my daughter’s birthday party, like I’m some sort of babysitting service. This is not OK. I count on my RSVPs so I can order enough food, drinks, and party favors. I need a space that will accommodate the number of invited guests. Extra kids messes all this up. And, often I don’t know all the siblings—some are total brats. One year, one, not-invited older sibling cut in front of all the little kids in line for pizza so he could get first dibs. I wanted to punch him. And then I wanted to punch his parents. I get it. You’ve got two, three, four kids and you don’t know what to do with them. If Virginia’s birthday party is inconvenient because you don’t have an activity for the rest of your brood, bow out. It’s OK. I understand. I’d much rather a “no” R.S.V.P. than unexpected siblings who will complain loudly why they didn’t get a candy bag, but their sister did.
What’s that you say? Ah, yes. I hear you. Breathe in, breathe out. Saturday is going to come and go and before you know it, I will be a perfectly sane, relatively nice relaxed person once again. It can’t come too soon.
We attended our yearly neighborhood camping trip last weekend. “Camping” for me has become driving up for the day, after a hot shower and a couple cups of strong coffee of course, hiking around for a few hours in my trail shoes, getting my yearly dose of trees and fresh air, and then driving home alone in time to make myself a nice dinner I’ll eat in front of Real Housewives. That’s about as much camping as I can handle. When I was Virginia’s age, I could have spent an entire summer outdoors, barefoot and sleeping in a tent by a lake and living off of hard salami, Triscuits, and fruit. No longer. This is what a few decades of hotels and city living and easy access to plumbing can do to a girl. Now, I freak if I’m someplace I can’t blow out my hair or grab a cup of good coffee. Seriously. I’ve become the lady I used to roll my eyes at—I may now be in Goldie-Hawn-at-the-beginning-of-Overboard territory.
This got me thinking: my menu of what I consider fun changes as I get older. You know what’s fun now? Trying different kinds of cheese. When I see a cheese plate these days, I pounce and have to restrain myself from inhaling the whole thing. My ten-year-old palate was not exactly sophisticated, and I remember instantly recoiling at just a whiff of “stinky” cheese. Museums are a lot more fun since I’ve hit adulthood, too. Strolling leisurely as I take in gorgeous works of art is such heaven. I can’t go on vacation without visiting a city’s signature art museum. Turns out, this is not an activity that tops Virginia’s list. It’s an exercise in extreme patience for her to wander among the paintings and sculptures, and I remember feeling the same way.
A few weeks ago I took Virginia to a baseball game. She didn’t want to go at first, recalling how mind-numbingly bored she was two years ago when Josh and I dragged her to a summer afternoon game, and I knew this trip to the ballpark could be an expensive mistake. But as soon as we arrived, I started to see her turn around. I don’t know that the entire experience was all that exciting for her, but as soon as we walked through the gate, she was handed a bat bag—free for all kids that day. I bought her a Phillies hat. She enjoyed the opportunity to pig out on hotdogs and French fries. And after we settled into our seats, she actually watched the game and asked questions about the rules of baseball and how fans are selected to get onto the Jumbotron (criteria seems to hinge on behaving like an energetic moron). I thought, she’s warming to baseball—she must be growing up!
Yeah, “growing up.” Before I know it, she’ll be talking me into going glamping.