Philosophy Hall's echoing atrium quiets in the summer, and there was still one person there before me when I stopped in Monday to catch up with my favorite brilliant, zany, interesting philosopher. (I even had time to run down to the entry floor, home of the only women's bathroom in at least the top five floors of the seven-story building. Columbia.)
It was an intellectual, friendly, honest conversation - the sort that seem to drop at my feet, dead-pigeon-off-a-live-wire style, in New York. New Yorker as aesthetic product, anyone? Feminism and adulthood?
This woman proctored my final college exam, and we recalled together that the first thing I said to her upon completing it was, "I'm not dead!" I don't miss that mindset, I told her, but one thing I do miss about my old life is taking care of children, and that there's one certain toddler who keeps my heart grasped in her tiny, grubby hand (she doesn't like washing them). My follow-up thought was, "Is it normal to be a young adult with many fruitful connections and missions in the world and spend so much time wishing to be negotiating with (and hugging) a three year old who is not my three year old?"
Probably not, but then I rarely qualify for normalcy. That apartment was my next stop, and I felt more at peace helping the child color and chatting with her nanny than I had in many weeks.
These are things I know: children keep us older folk honest and present; love is love is love; I like taking care of others; her parents, as with those of my other kiddies, feel like adopted family. I wish I could waltz in and out of lives without so much emotional investment, but it's that devotion that makes me an exceptional caretaker and leads to my acquiring extra aunt and uncle types, a welcome addition to extra little sister-cousin types.
This writing is awkward and I'm tired and sad to be back in New London and going to work. And I miss that little girl, who started throwing toys when she realized I wasn't staying long.
My fellow refugee editor e-mailed me yesterday:
"Just remember. It's nearby - always. That doesn't change."
Why does "nearby" feel so far?