A friend recently reminded me about a book I read several years ago that I really loved, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. In it, a woman wakes up from a bad fall to find that amnesia has taken all memory of the last 10 years of her life. In her last memory, she is pregnant with her first child and blissfully in love with her husband. What she wakes up to is decidedly different.
It’s kind of terrifying to consider what the you of 10 years ago would think about what you’ve done with ‘your one wild and precious life,’ to borrow a phrase from the incomparable Mary Oliver. Ten years ago, my husband and I lived in Memphis and I was recovering from the unexpected Caesarean section delivery of our first child, and breastfeeding was not working out like I had hoped. When that new baby was one week old, a job change for my husband put the wheels in motion for us to move back home to Jackson. While this was great, it also meant we would need to sell a house in January of 2009 when the housing crisis was diving into its deepest depths.
I was supposed to pack up a house while caring for a newborn, but I wasn’t yet even trying to change out of pajamas most days. Ten Years Ago Me sleep walked through her days thinking, ‘How in the hell did my mother do this three times?’ and then laid back down to nap with the baby.
While I’m sure Ten Years Ago Me would be flabbergasted at the number of mayhem-making children hollering and howling around my house, she would be delighted at the emergence of Athleisure Wear - because who isn’t? I imagine the invention of dry shampoo would be one of the most joyous discoveries she would make, it surely brings me joy on a weekly basis. I’m pretty sure I would be disappointed I hadn’t traveled more, kept up with my blog past the post announcing my second child was born, or developed a better sense of direction or distance.
On the plus side, my family recently got voice-controlled remotes and they are everything my sisters and I dreamed the future would be back in 1995, so that would be a plus for sure.
Ten Years Ago Me would be amazed that iPhone thing stuck around; the pictures on her Nokia Sliver were pretty revolutionary to her. What was this whole ‘touch screen’ business about? It’s not like it was that big of a deal to punch the 7 button four times to get an ‘s’ when texting, you had to really want that ‘s’ but that was fine. I think it would embarrass her to find that she’s still sad there are no more new Harry Potter books, we should all be over that after 12 years - but whatever. It would thrill her, though, to know that the baby in her arms 10 years ago has grown to love them as well.
The meteoric rise of social media, on the other hand, would irritate Ten Years Ago Me. Back during the early days of social media, I had scoffed at the whole endeavor. I got an account to see what all the fuss was about and decided it was a silly vanity platform, giving people a place to sound inauthentically chipper about inane things like a weekend spent tailgating or to send messages telling friends to call soon to catch up. Really? Why not just call them? I just didn’t get it. I’m not big on (or all that great at) small talk, and it felt like fake and delayed small talk and didn’t interest me.
Five years later when my second child was born, I did post a few pictures of her since, by then, Facebook had become the way people shared such news with friends far and wide, but I wasn’t going to be one of those people who actually used Facebook for much more than that. It was fun reading all the sweet comments about my cute new baby, so I tried to return the love when friends made big announcements, but that would be all - nothing more. These days, I can’t remember the last time I didn’t check it at least once a day. Clearly, my younger self has at least a couple of things she could teach me…
Ten years ago, I had no idea my life would be quite so ruled by carpool numbers and appointments on the calendar and small humans who cannot ever find their dadgum shoes. I had no idea how many hours of my life would be spent searching for the cuckoo clock my four-year-old begged for one Christmas, or the blue basketball that didn’t seem to exist, or that I would drive to Hobby Lobby at 7 p.m. on a Wednesday night to get a bulletin board after tense negotiations over what needs to be done to make the five-year-old stop taping things to the wall and coloring on the tape, leaving tape shaped outlines all around the room.
I could not have foreseen how much energy would be expended removing slime and silly putty from things, or how well versed I would become on the removal of stains from clothing, (blue Dawn, hydrogen peroxide, OxiClean - I wish I owned stock). If you had told me 10 years ago that a baby boy who calls the kitchen the ‘chicken’ and little girls who get up out of bed to ask burning questions like, ‘Were dinosaurs alive when you were a little girl?’ would be enough to make the slime and the stains worth it - I would have thought you were full of it. Ten years ago, I was still too cool and too in charge to believe I would let something as ridiculous as slime into my house. Silly me.
I know for a fact that Ten Years Ago Me would be appalled that my two-year-old still drinks milk from a bottle because that was not how she was going to do things. As a new mother, and for the next few years, I had strong opinions about creating ‘bad habits’ in babies. My oldest only got a pacifier in her bed so she wasn’t one of those kids walking around with it in their mouth all day - the kids whose parents I was judging without any conscious realization I was doing so, but judging nonetheless. I was sure that giving them carte blanche with the pacifier was what made it so difficult to take it away at the ‘appropriate’ age.
For someone who had parented exactly zero children, I had quite a few ideas about what was and was not ‘appropriate’ for children as well. The week after my daughter’s first birthday I took all the pacifiers out of the house and she only screamed for it for three nights... (Sorry, baby.) My second daughter got hers until 16 months with the same results. My third daughter got to keep it for 18 months, but she was a terrible sleeper and, honestly - we were a little too scared of her to rock the boat once she actually slept.
My son, my last baby, never liked pacifiers. I bought every kind known to the mom blogosphere, mom Facebook groups, and random parents with children happily gnawing on one in restaurants. No dice. I would have crafted one myself from an organic rubber plant that was watered with the happy tears of baby goats who wear pajamas and do yoga on a fair-trade supporting, rubber tree farm if it would have given me a break from nursing him so. many. times. a. night. But he sure loves his milk in a bottle. So, fine. I have a toddler who can speak in complete paragraphs and can bring me all the parts needed to make him a bottle and who ends his request with, ‘warm it up mama, in da mico-wave.’ Ten Years Ago Me would be horrified. Today Me finds bottles of spoiled milk under the furniture every couple of days and has a happy, healthy son who is excellent at giving instructions even with a bottle in his inappropriately old mouth.
I don’t think everything about my parenting would alarm my younger self, though. The new mother I was 10 years ago would be super proud that I overcame early nursing problems and bad advice to go on to nurse each baby longer than the last - she didn’t think that was going to happen back in 2009 when she was crying into the ready-to-feed formula bottles and following the most bizarre of suggestions to increase milk supply, (drink blue Gatorade, eat brewer’s yeast, a very specific oatmeal, pump, don’t pump, spin in circles and moo like a cow, and my favorite - drink dark beer). When I think back to how heartbroken I was following my unexpected cesarean delivery with my first child, I am sure that Ten Years Ago Me would be delighted to find that after having a second section, I turned into a complete nerd about birth. Diving head first into the world I had previously thought was reserved for unshaven hippies and people who could use the word ‘doula’ without looking like something smelled bad. Finding out just how badly I had misjudged this community led to hiring two doulas and having two VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarean) with my second two children, and a passion for advocating for other women who want that option as well. Ten Years Ago Me would cheer at this news, she didn’t know we had it in us.
My younger self would not be surprised that my husband and I will soon celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary, not because we were some paragon of marital health at 28 years old though - she was just naïve (read: stupid) enough to think achieving that would be easy. When you meet a boy at 15 and say you’re going to marry him, and then you do marry him at 23 - you never imagine it’s not forever, even if those kids at the altar never imagined how hard some of the days in forever will be. I knew he was a good one at 15 and every time the kids are pushing it and he quietly reminds me, ‘We do not negotiate with terrorists,’ I’m reminded how well I chose.
I know the person I was 10 years ago would be heartbroken by some of the friendships that didn’t make it to today, I am too. Some faded away as naturally as the seasons change, for some I would be at a complete loss to explain where they went or why. But she would be delighted by so many of the new ones that neither of us ever never saw coming. Preachers and teachers and people who manage to be both to me.
I can only imagine what waking up to today without the benefit of the lessons and the learning of the last 10 years would be like. But I’d like to think it would delight and amaze her enough to make the jarring landing into today worth the whiplash.
One of those dear friends I didn’t see coming shared a meme with me recently that she knew would resonate with me. It had two stick people friends standing side by side and one says, ‘you’ve changed’. The other friend’s reply was, ‘I hope so.’ Ten Years Ago Me might be shocked and surprised by many of the changes to be found, but I think she would be proud and excited by them as well. I hope so.
Elizabeth Quinn makes her home in Northeast Jackson with her husband Percy and four children.