This one day you professed to want a farm. A place to raise a pig. And probably not the sort that walks around on a leash, either. Probably the sort that lives in a barn and takes mud baths and drinks from a trough. And before I realized what I was saying, I said it: That sounds great. Pigs are nice. But it all depends on the space. It might have to be a couple of chickens. Or a dog.
I’d spent half my life living the dream of a small-town kid with sights fixed on the big city: a place where sometimes-moody-looking people wear fashionable clothes and walk extra fast and ride subway trains and aren’t afraid of getting mugged because they’re the Einsteins of street-smart. They order fancy espresso beverages at too-crowded coffee counters, kvetch about traffic and readily give directions from any number of destinations to any number of others. Excepting the part about the fashionable clothes (which I outgrew when I grew my baby belly and never grew into again), that was me. I’d arrived. I was a first-rate city slicker.
And I wasn’t bullshitting you: That farm sounded great. It had been a tough couple of years complicated by the way we city folk are hard-pressed for peace and quiet. Plus I heard so much excitement in your voice, saw the way your face lit up when you talked about trees and a back yard and, at once, I wanted it, too. I wanted to know my friendly neighbors. I wanted off the subway and on a riding mower. I wanted to walk instead of run, press pause, slow it down. For it was all moving by too quickly.
The evolution of you: Your three- and four-word sentences became eight, nine and ten. You learned that using a telephone involves holding it to your ear and maintaining your end of the conversation. (“Hello, Daddy! It’s me, Elbee.”) You peed on a potty chair. You sat through your first feature-length movie. (And then you sat through it again.) You memorized a poem that somewhat perfectly summarizes what you’ve made of your young life. (A.A. Milne’s “Happiness.”) You colored pictures that looked like something, if still wildly abstract and in need of explanation. (The red circle was Elmo. The purple square a cupcake. Elmo felt like sweets for dinner.) You professed to like some things “a lot” (chocolate, ice cream cones, Pooh Bear, Olaf, dirt, trees, insects, beaches, parks) and other things “not at all” (meat, naps, loud noises). You began asking questions: Who’s that? Why? Are you ok? Five more minutes? Later? Please?! You reasoned in that way that suggests you’re a little bit weird and a whole lot wonderful: I didn’t live in a belly. I met Mommy in the ocean! We were swimming and swimming and I said, ‘Hi, Mommy! I’ll keep you!’ And then we came home – and now I live here. You sang in tune. You rolled your eyes. You staged tea parties for your Cabbage Patch dolls.
Looking at you, I could scarcely get over how much you’d changed from that itty bitty baby into a growin’-up girl, the way you were becoming more and more yourself with each passing minute and how, if it was possible, I loved you even more at two than when we first met. Plus I really liked you: If you wanted a farm, I wanted you to have it.
So shortly after your second birthday, Dad and I set out to identify, if not a farm, a detached home with a yard big enough for a couple of chickens. Or a dog. In step with researching public school districts, I Googled up on livestock regulations in our target market – a half hour (and change) from the city I knew like the back of my hand and had grown to love considerably less than you.
Now don’t start mourning my loss of self, for it turns out it’s not like that.
The evolution of me: More important to me than the midnight ristretto doppio at 20, is being your mom at 30-[cough]. I want to take my time with it, take my time with you. And I want a next great adventure: the sort we three can have together. I want the farm and the pigs and the trees and the yard that makes you smile and makes it so we get to enjoy seeing you so glad.
The evolution of us. I can’t wait. I can. I don’t know the first thing about farming. Maybe we can learn?
To two. Happy birthday, sweet pea.