The Prodigal Daughter
As I write this essay, my boobs are hanging out. I could put on a bra, but I thought I’d write this piece in the spirit that is inspiring it: Exposed, and a little gassy.
My boobs are out because I spend all day breastfeeding my baby. She is so sweet. A sweet, fiendish, milk monster. My husband is very helpful, but he is gone on weekends, so it’s just me and her. During these times, my whole day is dedicated to her and it turns out babies are very demanding. I spend a lot of time in front of my TV, nursing, which means I watch all the cheesy commercials about families reuniting now that the world is opening back up. Isn’t it great to see Grandma again, why not buy a Nissan! You’ve been trapped in your house for 15 months, which means you must really miss the Olive Garden! Everyone is going back to normal, but my life is completely different. I am inside most of the day, more sequestered at home than I ever was in 2020. Every day I google things like why does my baby grunt and is it normal for my baby to be crossed eyed some times.
My life is different, and I reminisce on my old life. I miss working out. I miss having a tidy house. I miss my fit body. I miss being bored. The other night when I was half asleep nursing, I thought, how did I get here? I have a baby on my boob, I’m watching Love it or List it eating probiotic yogurt because that’s a sensible yet yummy treat. I have officially become a housewife. I’m a kept woman. This is so weird.
How quickly one season changes into another.
Just three years ago I was driving thousands of miles across the country performing stand up. The travelling destroyed me, of course. I drink way too much coffee to be able to get the amount of sleep a body needs for the road life. On one of my last road trips, I drove from Nashville to Ann Arbor, Michigan, then across the border to Canada, and then back to Nashville. That was a typical road trip. I should have stopped when an eye twitch persisted, for a year, but I didn’t. It took a full on depressive episode to pry me off the road and then another year after that just to shake off the cloud of my mental breakdown. And then the pandemic hit. And then Daisy came. And now I have the Pioneer Woman app on my phone.
How the seasons change....
Still close to my remembrance is my life before I moved to America. When I think of Toronto and the 12 years I lived there, it is still so vivid to me. I can hear the ding of the street car, and see the grey slush blanketing the sleepy, grey city in the winer. I can smell the street meet and see the spire of the CN Tower shooting up to the amazing blue sky.
I lived all over Toronto. Each neighborhood signifies different chapters of my time there. I lived in the west end, in Parkdale, in a house converted into an apartment. I made friends with an aborignal man who lived in the attic apartment. I’d knock on his door and smoke weed with him. One night he pulled out his penis at me, and that was the last time I knocked on his door. There is no such thing as free weed.
I lived in the annex, where in the summertime the beautiful brick Victorian houses bloomed with flowers and dew. It was living here that Toronto started to feel like home, and I spent my savings on cheap beers. I lived in the east end, in a basement apartment with small windows. This is where I found out I had an abnormal papsmear at the same time I was working on a tv show. One spring, I subletted an apartment downtown that I shared with a French Canadian man. I ended up writing a few jokes about him, which upset him so much that it triggered his Crones Disease, and I spent the summer buying diapers for him and feeling very awkward.
I lived in Scarborough with my uncle, who eventually kicked me out for reasons I’ve never really understood but I assume had something to do with me leaving dishes in my room overnight, and probably other microaggressions he picked up on but that I was oblivious to. I was happy to leave Scarbrough, any way, it was the suburbs, and I liked living in the city, where without a license or a car, I could walk anywhere as long as I gave myself enough time.
I loved exploring the hidden gems in Toronto. Every once and a while, I’d get all dolled up, and get really stoned, and trapse across the city on foot. I’d pop into fancy bars and dive bars, what ever struck my drunken fancy. The drunker I got, the more lose my conversations. I’d find odd characters to talk to, philosophize, share my secrets with strangers and forget all about it in the morning. It was a lot of fun, roaming a city at night. Although I will not recommend this to my daughter.
Before Daisy, I did whatever I wanted. When I think back on it, the freedom of my single years was exhilarating, but eventually exhausting and then boring. I needed to switch it up. I traded independence for dependency. I got married. I have a family now.
Maybe this doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement of family life, but it is. I feel so lucky that I know both worlds. I know the chaos, the fun, the partying, the wildness, the irresponsibility. But during those seasons, I always bought my food at restaurants. I never had dinner parties, or long term relationships. I didn't have God, or Christian friends. I just had myself, my ambition, and my career. I needed a lot, but I wasn’t needed by anyone else, and that bread a low grade loneliness I never recognized until later on, when I had the opposite, a conventional life, to compare it to.
Now, I cook. I make green salads and casseroles and bake cookies. I’m very WASPY. I get my hair done every three months, and pedicures in the summer. I know what aisle obscure items are in the grocery store, and I watch home decor shows and try and recreate them in my own home. I shop at Hobby Lobby and collect coupons.
I may be boring to others, but subjectively, to me, I feel whole, settled. The weekends can be long with my little milk monster, but I look at her and I’m amazed. What are the odds, that me, this reformed prodigal daughter, would beget such a precious, little life. A life. Who knows what antics she will get up to? I’m glad that I’m able to offer my daughter a perspective of both the wayward existence, wild and artsy and independent, as well as the domestic, traditional route. I can tell her the good and bad of both paths. Because the truth is that both paths have rewards and sacrifices, adventures and disappointments.
My favorite chapter in the bible is Ecc 3. You know, the one about the seasons. It gives me comfort knowing nothing is static, that there is a time for all things. Not every season feels the same, or is easy to go through, but when you look back on them all, they all seem to have some edifying purpose. In a weird way, I’m thankful for the man in the attic exposing himself to me, and I’m glad my uncle kicked me out of my apartment. I’ve been naive, oblivious, selfish, and reckless, and now I’m starting all over, in a new chapter, a mother, which every day has a steep learning curve.
The weird thing is, even though I’m not a wild actress any more, my boobs are out now more than ever. God has a sense of humor.