It’s 3:30 in the morning, and I’m sitting next to our Christmas tree eating Aldi’s brand Cheerios and waiting impatiently for my coffee to brew.
I think of my birthday. Tomorrow I’ll be 29.
I take stock of my situation: I am married to my best friend and we have three small children with one due Christmas Eve. I get to stay at home and write. We bought a house this summer, and my husband works for the Church. God is so good.
I try to remember where I thought I’d be by 29 when I was 19. I close my eyes and picture me ten years ago, wrinkleless, rested, and with better-maintained eyebrows. By 19, I’d abandoned my dream of becoming the Queen of England and converting the UK (getting myself to London to meet Prince William just wasn’t happening) or a famous actress who’d evangelize Hollywood (my leading roles in high school simply and astonishingly didn’t immediately result in my being discovered and transported to California) and by 19, I felt drawn to the religious life, partly to escape the reality of lost hopes of fame, as outrageous as they were, and very much to extract myself from the moral quicksand of life at the nation’s number two party school. Having a penchant for enormous hoop earrings and adventure, I set my sights on becoming a Sister of Life in New York, imagining myself in a real-life version of Sister Act on a track that would inevitably result in my undeniable holiness, evangelizing the rough-but-lovable girls of the Bronx in my beautiful habit and hoop earrings.
I sit in my living room, feeling my much smaller hoops in my ears and watching my pregnancy-swollen fingers type. The baby in utero wakes up with the coffee and his three older siblings are still asleep in their rooms, their fans humming from behind their doors. I look around at my cozy little home and at the same clothes I’ve been wearing for two days in a row. I think of the day to come: of getting the oldest off to kindergarten, waiting to have two windows replaced, trying to persuade the four-year-old to wear pants, the inevitable struggle of wanting to eat everything in the house, having the pleasure of holding a usually rambunctious but currently gray-faced sick toddler wrapped up in a blanket and kissing her miniature nose as much as I’d like because she’s too tired to swat my face away, cleaning up the oil slick in the kitchen that’s been there since this weekend, remembering to smile and act like a lady and pray and pay attention to our heavenly Father’s tokens of love throughout the day and finish up my Christmas shopping. And taking a shower sometime.
I consider the life God has given me. It’s beautiful and perfect and somehow just what I’d always wanted. And yet so much harder than I could have anticipated. And messier and more uncertain. And hidden. I am a day away from 29 and not a queen or an actress or a religious sister. I am Mom and that’s all that matters to my kids.