There's something about having kids, the way days and weeks and months meld into one long strip of routine—feeding and bathing and diapers and children's needs and children's feelings and children's safety, the continuous HVAC roar of lion protector sense always tuned into exhausting overdrive—that sometimes operating just a millimeter outside the whole child-oriented universe blows your mind.
A few years ago, my partner took our kids to Florida with her family, and I sat in a meeting, thrilled to be free for a couple days. I noticed a pay phone against a wall. Look at that pay phone, I thought. It's so metallic, and three dimensional, and tactile. It's got corners, some are rounded some are not, some corners are rounded more than others. There is a thick faux wood frame around it, and a rubber cord, and a plastic receiver with bits of food and spit stuck in the speaker holes. It's so there.
There was a bell on the table to call the meeting to order, also so very tactile and ding-y, dying plants and a coffee maker, papers in varying degrees of yellowedness tacked to a bulletin board, dust bunnies on the carpet, folding chairs with people sitting in them, breathing and sipping water from plastic bottles. It all seemed trippy, like I was noticing life for the first time in years.
On Friday my 6-year-old attended a birthday party that ended at 10pm. That's definitely a millimeter outside the child-oriented universe: a children's party that ends at 10pm! Quelle European. Driving our beloved mini-van through the oily late night humidity, the streets shiny with rain, blasting Viva La Vida through the open car windows as if I were going out for the evening rather than picking my daughter and her friend from the birthday party, everything felt so different.
We dropped her friend at her house on an empty and incredibly brightly lit street. Street lamp light reflected against the wet air, creating a diffuse glare under which cicadas raged, hurting my ears. We jumped over huge puddles to get to the friend's front porch, and there we turned her over to her mother in what seemed the middle of the night, but was only 10:15. Back in the car, my daughter and I both spaced out to Because The Night, and when we arrived home, she sang pull me close, try and understand as she climbed out of the car. Turn the clock back only two hours, to 8:15, and it would have been just another humdrum day in the life of small children. Instead, it was so trippy.