Yesterday, I went through Z's closet with E, who was thrilled at the prospect of being in her big sister's normally off-limits room. Between the bags of hand me downs that will soon fit and the ones that no longer fit, I found a trash bag full of drawings. It is a huge lawn and leaf bag filled with large, loose rolls of paper on which Z drew her likeness, as best she could.
I had completely forgotten about her self portrait phase. There were a few weeks last fall when, every free moment, Z would lay down paper on the floor and sketch herself in earnest. When our easel paper rolls ran out, she attached regular drawing paper end to end to end. Each roll of paper was filled with drawings of Z by Z. Slightly different by design, most of them were larger than life sized. Her eyes, mouth, clothes and hairstyles differed in each one and going through them today in her room, I remembered asking her about them as she worked so diligently. Why were there so many?
Because I'm still figuring myself out, she said.
I didn't have to ask any other questions.
I am 40 today.
I've long been obsessed with sliding doors-type movies, choose your own adventure books and true stories about life-altering chance encounters. Watching Gwyneth Paltrow's life change completely based on a missed train, I wonder about all those seemingly small moments in my life, the ones that we don't even know are happening when they happened, that determined the path I am on.
I used to imagine myself living a different life. In another version of this life of mine, I didn't move to Maine after college to run a bed and breakfast, thereby setting myself up to move to San Francisco with a college friend which essentially set my entire adult life in motion. Instead I went to graduate school in psychology, got intensely interested in ...... something..... and found a deep intellectual calling.
I have struggled so much with feeling a loss of the life I didn't lead, the sliding doors one where I'm a diligent and respected member of some academic circle. (In true sliding doors fashion, I would have a different hair style and wardrobe, which every American woman knows is shorthand for a totally different life.)
But what stops me cold these days: if I had followed some other path, opened a different door, I would most likely not be here in this house, with these people.
I am still figuring myself out but I know one thing without question: that would be the biggest loss.
Z still draws herself sometimes. But mostly she draws towns, cities, flowers, friends, animals, planes, and rainbows. I asked her last night what she wanted to do with all the self portraits I had unearthed.
I want to keep a few of the best ones. I don't need the others anymore, she said.
And, once again, I totally understood.