I went out with girlfriends tonight, only one of a handful of times I've been out at night since my second child, now six months, was born. I put on heels and squeezed myself into some jeans that still don't quite fit, and I drove to Venice to meet four of my best friends at a restaurant that we've been going to together for years. I got there a few minutes early and wandered into a couple of shops, peering at little displays of jewelry I can't afford, and admiring the festive holiday atmosphere pervading every corner of everything.
It was Monday night but it was bustling, and when I returned to the restaurant it was already packed. We all crammed into a booth and ordered the same things we always order, the things we ordered seven years ago when were were the same, but different, people. When we were in our twenties and single, and lost and found, and altogether women we had already become. We just didn't know it yet.
And dinner was dinner, each of us filling the rest in on the latest, our week, our year, our city, our love, our life. Everything was familiar and perfect and I've maybe never felt so grateful for things that continue, and things that stay the same.
After a while I could feel the clock beginning to tick, my breasts filling with milk for the baby at home, the sand running out on the time keeper for Greg and his nighttime capacity with the girls. Dessert menus skated across the table but I bid farewell, kissing my friends goodbye and heading back out into the nighttime.
As I walked down the street, the palm trees above me shrouded in a cool evening mist, I was flooded with memories of a different me. The me that lived here all those years ago, the years before I was a wife and a mother, the years before I was the woman I am now. I picked my way across the broken asphalt, to the station wagon, the car that would take me home to them, the girls and my husband, to the me I know better than that girl.
But for the minutes it took me to cut through Venice, over to Santa Monica and our little house, I let the ghost of who I once was ride with me. I turned up the radio and let myself remember different nights, a different car, different wants and fears and homecomings. I don't really miss those days or nights. I don't miss who I was. She's still here somewhere, crammed into some too-tight jeans, and briefly alighted into a warm and bustling restaurant that is still the same, even if I'm not.
Driving home I was grateful for all of it. The then and the now. The her and the me. The chance to trace over and over and over myself until I get it right.