First of all, I grew up listening to so much Paul Simon music from such an early age that it really was just background noise to me – background noise that I adored, of course, but that I didn’t really understand. Until my late 20s, I actually thought “Mother and Child Reunion” was a happy song: The music is kind of peppy, and reunions are typically good things, right? Only when I started paying attention to the lyrics did I start to realize something was amiss. “This strange and mournful day”? “I can’t for the life of me remember a sadder day”? “I’ve never been laid so low”? WAIT A MINUTE! THIS SONG IS ACTUALLY A HUGE BUMMER!
Luckily, we live in a world where no one has to speculate about such things for long; a quick Google search on my phone revealed that the song is named after a Chinese dish that contains both chicken and eggs and that the somber lyrics hint at suicide following a traumatic loss, reuniting mother and child in the same fatal way as the chicken and the eggs in the recipe. A huge bummer indeed.
Regardless, I am anticipating a happy mother and child reunion today – an absolutely joyous one – as Ruby returns late tonight from almost three weeks with her grandparents in St. Louis.
I’ve been sending care packages and cards; we’ve been FaceTiming and texting. But it’s just not the same as having her here to snuggle and fight with. I want nothing more than to yell at her about trying to watch House on Netflix behind my back or leaving her dirty clothes on the bathroom floor. I want to go through a gallon of milk in three days again. I want to curse under my breath (mostly under my breath) while trying to comb out her snarly but beautiful curls. I want to read bedtime stories until my voice gives out. I really, really want to lie down next to her until she is well and truly asleep and just listen to her breathe and marvel at how still she finally is after a day spent in perpetual motion and how big she now is – this child, who used to fit neatly between my chin and my waist and is now almost as tall as me (which is admittedly not actually all that tall).
For the first week or so that she was gone, I actually enjoyed the increase of peace and quiet that comes with not having such a force of nature as Ruby in the house. I missed how much she made me laugh. I missed hugging her. I missed bedtime and lazy weekend mornings. I missed the good parts, in other words. But now, this late in the game, I miss absolutely everything, even the frustrating, noisy, crazy-making parts.
The mother and child reunion is only a moment away! And that’s not a huge bummer at all.
(P.S. One of my favorite Paul Simon quotes/stories – because it proves that sometimes art is just as mysterious to the creators of it as it is to the rest of us – is that when he was asked in a 1972 Rolling Stone interview just what it was that “the mama saw” in “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard,” he replied, “I have no idea what it was.”)