Today I am Kitsi.
I haven’t been Kitsi since I sat at my grandfather’s table, watching him feed his dog “Ace” people-food from his own plate while mumbling in a combination of scruffy “Atta-boy” and Gaelic. He named each dog he owned “Ace”— George Foreman for the canines—and he called me Kitsi. My grandpa died when I was in high school, but, though the nickname has been all but extinct, it made a stunning comeback, today, as I woke to Caroline’s screeching cry and subsequent sobbing: “Why don’t you sit on the rocking chair, Mommy?!!!!!” I stretched my legs and curled my toes and took in the dusty light coming in through the blinds, a light that stretched its legs and curled its toes around the room, as if to say, “I’m just getting up too, lady; take a few minutes and relax. Your daughter hasn’t hurled herself from the crib, yet.” Meddling light must have asked me my name because after a few minutes in corpse pose, I opened my eyes to my own voice saying: “Kitsi.”
Kitsi is childhood. Kitsi is my grandfather’s stash of butterscotch candies. Kitsi is the thrill of climbing the creaking stairs of his house when no one is looking. Kitsi is a million books in his library, filled with annotations. Kitsi is clanking around on the old piano. Kitsi is pulling away late at night, down the gravelly drive, falling asleep between siblings during the car ride home.
Kitsi is not taking smack from a 2-year old.
Kitsi is wrinkle-free, has uncluttered everything, wakes with coffee in her veins and hair bounceably agreeable. Kitsi goes where she will, taking names or no prisoners or whatever the cliché she’d like to chew up and spit out at the time.
Katie—her hair permanently bound in her daughter’s worn purple elastic—is sleepy. Her veins hold no coffee and are being run off of the map by sun spots and wrinkles.
So many wrinkles, in fact, that the other day, a sweltering day, after I’d cooled down the car and then strapped both kids in their respective car seats, I glanced in the rear view and stopped. I looked back at Caroline to see if what I saw would somehow alarm her, but she was happy in her seat, sucking on a new orange Croc while it was still on her foot. I looked again at the mirror. There was a line—not a line but a crevasse— running perpendicular to my eyebrows, searing my face in half. I looked closer and realized my eyes were actually not eyes but pinwheels with wrinkles circling and resurfacing as the air conditioning fluttered against my face. The once slight crease under my lip was the size of a soul patch—I could now play the trumpet comfortably, if I played the trumpet. I took both of my hands and placed both of my index fingers over the forehead gash and tried to pry it apart. I massaged it. Applied pressure. I looked back again at Caroline: still eating. I had aged. Had she noticed? And why, after all of these years, hadn’t I?!!
It all began to make sense. I’m an older new mother. Delete that. I’m the oldest new mother in Annapolis. Delete. I’m the oldest new mother in Anne Arundel County. I was fine with it, certainly astonishingly happy that a kind, handsome, quirky Delete crazy man fell in love with me and that we were blessed to have two children—no-brainer astonishingly happy. And I love that I have friends who are new moms as well. We trade stories, recipes, darn socks together…no but we have our kids in common and we all like to drink wine. I was under the radar as the oldest new mother in the state of Maryland until I turned 40 and my friend decided to organize a girls’ night out. Very fun night. Great birthday. But, for a while after I felt like a Smithsonian Exhibit. I could see it in the eyes of all the younger new mom friends around me: That’s so interesting…that you’re so old. They’d say things like, “Oh, you are NOT 40.” And, “You don’t look a day older than 28!” I could not eke out a 25 from anyone, not that I tried too hard at the time, but it all began to make sense. I really do look a day older than 28. Many, many days older.
After surviving the sweltering day, I spent some time online with Real Simple, scouring their crack-researchers’ results for various skin-saving tips and top products. I knew the price would be right and thought with simple in the title, that even I might be able to save myself from myself, with just a few dabs of miracle lotion and a dollop of something age-defyingly wonderful.
I didn’t think to have a spiral notebook handy—thought that a post-it would suffice—but after reading page after page of bullet points and block-lettered beauty tips, I became more and more aware of how screwed I really was. My favorite: To get younger skin at any age, I’m meant to “be conscious of repetitive movements.” Translation: If I was once a young-looking professional, and if I spent ½ of my teaching career scowling sternly in order to convince the students that I was, in fact, the teacher and not one of the students, well, I don’t need to scowl anymore. And I probably shouldn’t. Even at my 2-year old when she wakes me up howling: “Mommy, why don’t you sit on the rocking chair?” It’s that old Henny Youngman joke: “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.” Then don’t do that. And if you do, buy soap with alphahydroxy, anti-aging cream with retinoids, exfoliate weekly, and while you’re at it, grab a couple of those Deep Penetrating Foaming Moisturizing Illuminating Protecting Correcting cleansers. But do not scowl as the college girl rings you up at the register, smiling away as you swipe your card.
Today I am Kitsi……
At least until Katie sludges on a muddy mask and then runs out of the bathroom giggling towards the rocking chair, getting to work on Caroline’s laugh-lines.