The sun came out on my 39th birthday, after several days of October gloom.
I was born at Saint Anne’s Hospital, which is technically in Westerville but might as well be Columbus, on October eleventh, 1984. My mother and father were very studious at their Lamaze classes, to no avail. I stubbornly refused to come out. All four of my younger siblings were scheduled Caesarian births, but mine was the first, a last ditch Caesarian after 24 hours of labor. My siblings’ first baby photos are of confused newborns with nice round heads, and my photo looks like a russet potato in a blanket.
I have done nothing remarkable since.
I woke up yesterday morning at ten o’clock, nearly four decades later, still looking like a russet.
Adrienne was already at school. She values her independence. She wants to bike or take the municipal bus to school almost every morning, only waking me for a drop-off if she is running late, only calling me for a ride after school when she’s tired. Sometimes I don’t see her at all until almost three. She goes to bed at nine so she can wake up early, and my insomnia keeps me up until two in the morning alone. I like the freedom of not having to plan curricula and teach her, but it also makes me sad. I miss my baby. I miss homeschooling. I miss the hope that I’d have another and homeschool again. I miss the delusion that life would someday become normal– a middle-class housewife in a quiet neighborhood in a nice big Midwestern city, secure at the center of a loving family. A busy mother with one child attached to the breast and that child’s successor already growing in the womb and other children playing in the yard, following Jesus faithfully, praying my Rosary, keeping up with housework. That was the version of “normal” I grew up with. I’m not against that normal. If that’s your normal, I’m glad for you. It’s never happened to me.
I went to get in the car, but the tire pressure warning was on, so I went to the gas station to try to fill the tires myself and of course I failed. I drove home and got Jimmy, who did it for me. Between sleeping in and needing air in the tires, I got on the road well after noon, with the sun sparkling all around.
I found myself humming the lyrics to a nursery rhyme, incorrectly: “Here we go round the sun. Here we go round the moon. Here we go round the chimney pots on a Sunday afternoon.”
My plan had been to go back to Pittsburgh for the day, and have another few hours at the art museum before I had to get Adrienne from school. This was cutting it close. Pittsburgh is a full hour away in good traffic. I realized that I was nervous about navigating the crowded streets of the Oakland district, and nervous about how sad I’d felt the last time I went to the museum. It had helped me process my grief, but it also hurt.
When I got to Robinson, halfway between my house and the art museum, I stopped.
Robinson is the contradictory opposite of a nice quiet art museum. It’s a mall, surrounded by shopping centers, surrounded by strip malls for as far as the eye can see. Somewhere in there was a Starbucks and a Barnes and Noble, and an online friend had given me gift cards to those places for a birthday present. Another online friend had given me twenty dollars with the note that I should “buy something you want.” What I wanted was to sit in the parking lot of a Sheetz eating a burger, and playing games on my phone.
No, what I wanted was to be someone I was supposed to be and do something I was supposed to do, but I couldn’t.
No, what I really wanted was to sit and talk to a friend, not a parasocial friend on my phone but a friend in person. I pretended the Archangels were in the car with me and chatted with them. I hope they really were.
The sun was bright overhead and the sky was blue, for once. I pretended it was a birthday present from the angels.
I eventually found the Barnes and Noble in that maze of endless strip malls. I tried to make myself buy an important book, like a grownup would, but all I really wanted was a package of colored pencils. I will never be a grownup, or anything else I’m supposed to be.
“Here we go round the sun. Here we go round the moon. Here we go round the chimney pots on a Sunday afternoon.”
I bought a makeup brush at the beauty shop and ended up coming out with a big bag of free perfume samples and a bottle of skin serum, because I signed up for their rewards program and told them it was my birthday. I don’t wear perfume, but I’m going to try it now.
I wandered up and down the aisles of a nearby gourmet grocery store, with groceries too expensive to be practical to buy– but it smelled so good, like spice and luxury and fresh baked cinnamon rolls. There was a generous floral section with buckets of colorful roses. I would love to grow roses. If I ever get a house I own so it makes sense to plant more perennials than my bulbs in a planter, I will have old-fashioned perfumy roses cascading all over the porch. I want so many roses it nearly brings the porch roof down, a house made of roses. But I doubt I’ll ever have one.
I swiped my Starbucks gift card for an iced cold brew and drank it, pretending I always do things like this.
I hoped that on the outside I looked like a normal person who goes shopping at expensive grocery stores drinking cold brew every day. But I think I looked like what I am: a bewildered autistic woman, stimming in a place she doesn’t belong, enjoying smells, fantasizing about roses.
Then it was time to go back to Steubenville and pick up Adrienne.
I got in the car feeling better, somehow.
Here we go round the sun.
Here we go round the sun.
Whatever I am, whatever I turn out to be, whether I do anything right or not, here I go round the sun again for the fortieth time.
Maybe I’ll even like it.
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