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The twins are writing letters to their future selves. “To be opened when I’m 15 or more,” says Abel’s. “To my future self from your former self,” says Ilsa’s. They plan to tuck money in these envelopes, 5 dirhams here and there, so that they will be surprised in the future with an unexpected windfall.
I tell them they need to wait at least until they’re 20, but I know that’s not really long enough. I have kept diaries sporadically for most of my life. The journal from my junior high years was a masterpiece. It throbbed with deep emotion, as I’m sure all junior high girls’ journals do, but what made mine special was that every few months I’d reread it and write snide mocking little notes in the margins.
I found this journal when I was about 25, and I was mortified. I could not believe what an idiot I’d been. Even my snide notes held hints of melodrama and self-pity. I was so appalled at myself that I burned it, and was depressed for days, filled with self-loathing.
Of course now I wish I hadn’t. Now I can see it for the treasure trove of good clean fun it was. And now I have the perspective to know that everyone is melodramatic and angst-ridden and despairing, humorously so, in junior high. So I’m hoping to be able to get my hands on these letters, and tuck them away till I’m sure the Future Twins will treasure them. Also I can always use small change.
I wonder at what point we lose this anticipation of the future. I smile at the twins, at their starry-eyed imaginings of what they’ll be like in a few years, taller and deeper-voiced and famous artists and Jedi masters yet still excited to find a few odd coins. “I’ll ALWAYS have long hair,” Ilsa has taken to announcing. “I will NEVER cut it. Even when I’m OLD.” We’ll see, I tell her, but she is certain that she’s always be as she is now, only better.
The beginning of a new year is traditionally a time for introspection, a good time for writing letters to a future self. Maybe instead of resolutions, or goals as everyone’s calling them this year, we should write letters, picturing our futures.
Dear Future Self, I could say,
I hope you managed to lose all that weight! I hope you were more patient with the children. Did you ever finish that book on Mauritania?
I imagine you finally tall enough to be in the second row of the choir, and finally managing to keep closets and drawers organized and be prompt with thank you notes, email responses, and recipe requests. I picture you finally living in a house with enough bookshelves! And maybe curtains too, because your neighbours don’t love you as much as you think they do.
Your Former Self
There. Now I just need to recopy it on special paper and decorate the edges.
To be honest, I have given up hope that I will ever be truly organized, and I know I’m not really going to get any taller. I’m even wondering if I’ll ever lose any weight or finish my book. It seems doubtful.
One of the side effects of growing up is a loss not just of anticipation but of hope, of expectancy, of belief that anything’s possible. Because it isn’t. I’m not going to grow any taller. Donn is going to go bald*. With this comes acceptance but also cynicism, and it’s only bad if I stop trying to at least send thank you emails, stop trying to be more patient, and stop setting goals for my writing.
Tonight our tree is gone and Christmas decorations put away. I would probably have procrastinated on this a couple more days had Elliot not accidentally knocked the tree over last night. Amazingly enough, very few ornaments shattered on our tile floor. Abel’s hand-painted-when-he-was-one black bell broke in two, but was able to be glued.
The house always looks so bare, so bereft, the first few days after decorations are packed away. Outside the rain slams the windows, rattles the doors, turns the handles. It opened Ilsa’s windows earlier today and deposited a puddle on her floor, soaking one of the millions of glittery drawings of fairies that decorate every surface of her room. But at least it spared the poem she just finished titled “The Joy of Paper.” I have always wanted a daughter who would write poems to paper. I just wish I’d thought to mention that in my letters to my future, now current, self.
* that’s a little humour for those who know us in real life, since he started going bald at 18 and for years has sported the fringe look. We’re the same age and when we were 21 or so and dating, we used to get dirty looks in restaurants, because he looked 30 and I looked 14.