Just Kids


Tomorrow at dawn, I’m driving back to the city that I love.




I’m a viciously lucky bitch and this is my second time back in as many weeks. This particular trip is special because I’m taking my north and south.

My North: My mother, who hasn’t seen NYC since my dad drug (word choice intentional) us all there thirty years ago for the singular purpose of seeing the aircraft carrier on which he had served as a Navy sailor during Vietnam. That was Mayor Ed Koch’s New York.  A different world.  My dad was distracted and nostalgic. She was panic-stricken and developed her first duodenal ulcer carting two babies around this mad house of a town.  This time, she is carefully enthusiastic with robust reservations.

My South: My other travel companion in my son. New York is a land of make-believe that until now has only existed for his as the dreamy, scaffolded backdrop of The Avengers and Muppets Take Manhattan. He is careful about nothing. He’s going to the Empire State Building and he’s ecstatic.

So am I. To all of the above.

This is a necessary trip. In part, because life has had some tough days lately. Even typing that, it feels so ridiculous, it’s offensive. Because I’m a selfish ass a lot ( A LOT) of the time. So, I’ve been bit sick and a little sad. Wow. What a martyr. The worst of that, is that my foibles and my inflated fragiles have cost me. Seriously. I’ve been locked in my head for a while now. Only when atrocious things like Paris and San Bernadino happen do I poke my brain out of its self-spun cocoon of doom and realize that I’m fine. Totally fine. I’m a middle-class, cis, white girl living in America. Believe me, I’m fine. An eye-roll inducing mansplaining about “all the chicks in Jessica Jones’ while I’m ordering my five dollar coffee is about as tough as my life gets. I accept that.  But just my lousy luck, that doesn’t get me back what I’ve pushed away with two hands.

But, back to the beautiful city.

I have to be the one in charge this weekend. Round the clock. And I need that. Let me fail. Remind me how ridiculous I sound with my petty hurts and imagined slights. It’s a good thing for me to  take the controls. Especially now.

It’s been casually suggested by friends and bluntly stated by a(t least one) therapist that you have to grow your own happy. You don’t just wait for Amazon to deliver it. (Unless that delivery is a pair of black leather Christian Louboutins for which I didn’t have to pay. Then, yes. Happiness delivered.) But my life doesn’t star Carrie Bradshaw. So,  go get your own damn happy.

Getting happy is hard with a kid. And that sounds awful. Just classless, sluggery parenting. (And it’s the reason I only have one child. Know your limits.) But it is. For me anyway.

For me, happy is what you chase by doing exactly what you want for your life. That’s not what happens in parenthood. Especially if you’re doing it with multiple households and some shifting cast members. For so many in this cohort, the years of middle-age are not about you. You, as self, is placed so far in the back of the car, you may as well be in the cargo carrier on top. You can’t lunge for what you want. Because there is laundry and karate and work meetings, and good gods you are tired. Lunging for you takes place at midnight behind a laptop. Or at 5 AM, because lunges, along with squats and pushups, are miserable creations, and before dawn seems as awful a time as any to do them.

Life becomes ‘just kids’. (One of the many reasons that I believe parents would be created by intention and not by mere circumstance. But’s that’s another prickly topic.) Your days and nights. Just. Kids.

That’s why this trip to New York will include whatever cheesy, over-priced kitsch we can pack in it. Because it’s for him. Love him. Love it. Thrilled to be on board. But, looking at my mom, our other passenger this time through, I realized there’s a whole separate and dividing  ‘just kids’ in her world.

My family is very small. That’s all I’ve ever known. As years have passed, it’s gotten smaller. Especially my nuclear family. My dad died a little over a year ago. There’s not a big circle for my mom to grab onto if she’s spinning. She’s had more than a few health issues lately, and ‘just kids’ is all she’s had to support her. Need someone with you during outpatient surgery? Just kids. Pharmacy run? Just kids. Pool covered replaced for the fourth time this winter? Exactly. Just kids.

And I’m happy to do it. Because of my own situation, I know what it’s like dealing with every facet of adult-ing alone. Friggin’ hard, dude. I’m glad that my brother and I can be there for her. And now, she and I have the close knitting of truly getting what a real just kids situation is. We are each other’s one and only huckleberries most days.

I pulled the title for this from the incredible memoir of the same name by Patti Smith. I have big, verdant, writer, music, art, and fashion envy for this woman. Ms. Smith chased her dreams of music and poetry and drawing on a wall through street and valleys of some frightful shit. But did it with a joy you can feel. I want that.

There’s a reason her Cavale monologue from the play Cowboy Mouth that she wrote with Sam Shepard is still my favorite audition piece. This raucous, hurt, but still-fighting broad gets it. There’s a joy there that I chase every time.

That’s what I’m driving to in New York City tomorrow. The joy of it. Shut your mouth. Shut your brain. Joy. Pure and simple. See and feel. Listen. Wonder. Imagine. Get fucking messy.  With all these twisted, funky inside parts of you. And the special parts to your north and south, that want nothing more that to have you, all of you come out and play.

Like kids.