Blast Into the Past
Friday night last, I got a message from a very significant person in my past: Betsy Aubrey, the spirited young divorcee who retained me (in exchange for a room) as a bilingual ‘au pair’ to Paddy, her three year old boy.
The year was 1979. I hadn’t morphed into Alice yet.
“We’re having a party tomorrow night at our place, we’d love it if you could come –sorry about the late notice… Paddy’s going to be there with Jamie and their boy.”
Just her voice on the tape took me back an entire epoch (before REAGAN!!). Speaking of ‘voice’…that is me singing the Irish song featuring a guy named ‘paddy’. Planxty’s Johnny Moynihan does a nicer job of it…
For about a year, I’d gotten to play with, dress for school, bicycle with, cook for, and TELL STORIES (in French of course) to an impetuous blonde three year old named Padraic. With five siblings ‘under my belt’ (so to speak) I knew that one little boy would be a piece of cake.
Well, maybe it wasn’t ALL cake, but it was a gas. I got to unfurl my Inner Julia Child, my Maurice Sendbak, and of course, dust off my underutilized Big Bossy Sister.
That epoch was tumultuous for every person in the household for three different reasons…but somehow we came through it intact, and now I was invited to come see this kid as a grown man.
It wouldn’t be a total shock.
Three years ago I’d googled Paddy in a late night web-wandering session. I think my bio-illogical clock had just gone off.
Fifty years old, and (damn!) I ‘d forgotten to have a child!
With a handle like Padraic, in two clicks of a of mouse’s tail I learned he was playing with a band called “Hearing Red”, working as a fledgling film maker, and generally being a boy-about-town in the LA fame pits. I wrote a note to the band’s MySpace page, he wrote back.
Il ne m’avais pas oublie!
And: he was about to become a dad . I promised to one day go see him (by bike!), but instead, slid back into my Alice B. NoKids existence.
Until the phone call four nights ago.
Led the Mellow Marin wombat ride
Hosted a small tea for four in the Habitat
Swabbed myself down with Opium
Threw my gray crochet minidress into a backpack (plus stockings, high heels, olive paste for Betsy –no doubt a discerning cook herself–a ceremonial chinese jacket for little mini-Paddy, bike light, oh piles of stuff…) It’s twenty five (beautiful tail wind sunny) miles into town.
With fifty mph winds on the Golden Gate bridge. Wind AND sun, a rare combo.
Really glad I left the banjo at home. (Ed: so were countless others!)
Dare I attempt to describe stepping into that lavish party?
The fact that the birthday girl looked younger than when she was thirty?
The red velvet cake, the savory ham sliders, the three sauces for dippping, the veggie stew, the free-flowing liquor, the gaudy tie-dye outfits?
Verily, twas a SIXTIES theme party, and the peace signs twinkled on every chest.
Dare I mention that my name-recall chakra was a bit off kilter, and I called one fellow the Wrong Name for most of the night? Highlights included a few minutes of genuine ‘face time’. The kind of looking that real moms are so familiar with and us poseurs just dream of, where you unblinkingly gaze into the soul of that grown up human, and see…that little person again.
I think I must have ticked off something on my ‘to do’ list of life, without knowing it had been listed.
I MEAN CHECK, not TICK.
Well, maybe tick.
After all, after leaving a party–in my case in high heels, dress, backpack, wobbling into the almost starry night on my skinnyHam–one has no clue what ripples one leaves among seventy people from all over the country. For me it was a gay time: mingling, blethering, and sometimes alighting to make a concerted effort at lip-reading, while efficiently packing in the plentiful provender.
Gliding on, wondering :”why am I here?”.
OH, right. So I can look into familiar eyes, and reforge that connection between two earlier beings, and pull some loose threads into that braided coil that all our stories are, before they converge at the very end…