“You will have a successful year in business,” read one friend.
“Your magnetic personality will take you far,” read another.
Assuming that mine would be much of the same, I popped a piece of my fortune cookie in my mouth and nonchalantly prepared to recite my tiny prophecy, which I would discreetly stow in my wallet as tangible validation if it positively applied in even the most arbitrary way to anything that was questionable in my life.
Anticipating a manufactured cliché, but hoping for one that I could at least inject with implied significance to project onto Mike during the car ride home, I pulled out the ubiquitous rectangular paper and found this weighty fortune:
“WORK ON IMPROVING YOUR EXERCISE ROUTINE”
Fortune cookies are supposed to reveal factory-packaged slivers of hope or at least the punch line to a dirty joke. But while my friends received words of encouragement and gratuitous praise, I literally unraveled judgment. And did the person that prepared this bold-typed condemnation even recognize the irony that it was baked inside of a cookie?
If I wasn’t five months pregnant with twins and hadn’t arrived at the restaurant to see my dinner companions in huddled whispers with the host, discussing what I later learned was their concern that I would not be able to fit in the booth, this would have seemed less comical. The well-meaning waiter had even asked if I would like something spicy to help induce labor, assuming that at this girth I had to be well past my due date.
At this point I could still get my knee-high boots over my calves and my trademark bangles were still firmly on my wrists. I did not yet know that within a month or two I would no longer be able to push the bracelets over the bear paws that soon passed for my hands or that even Birkenstocks would become a distant memory. I was literally barefoot and pregnant. By the end of my pregnancy, the small tattoo of a delicate, fluttering monarch butterfly that I had emblazoned on my right hip in high school to coyly peak out over my low-slung, vintage bell-bottoms took on the countenance of an angry pterodactyl.
But after many years of heartache in my inability to conceive, I was simply too overcome with bliss and gratitude to indulge vanity or signs. It’s true – love is blind. Plus, I could no longer see the tattoo anyway.
The boys spent the first week with me in the hospital covered in my salty tears. I thought my heart would burst with the love that I felt for them.
But as the months wore on and my love for Sweetlips and The Bean grew, so ultimately did my fear. It wasn’t until they were on the outside and I was on my own that I had any perception of the physical toll that both the years leading up to and the pregnancy itself had taken. Five months after I gave birth, a flight of stairs left me unreasonably winded and my stomach muscles were so weak that I could not sit up in bed without using my arms to pull myself. Not to mention the fact that I had amassed an enviable wardrobe over the years from keen collecting and editorial swag and if I continued to rely on maternity leggings, my sartorial classics would sadly soon be archived.
One afternoon, when the boys were six months, I laid down for a quick rest while they napped. And as my mind wandered, I began to think about all of their tiny accomplishments – the first time Bean smiled. The determination that Sweetlips exuded as he rocked back and forth until he willed himself to roll over. No matter how clichéd, no one can prepare you for the awe you feel in the miracles that are your children.
And then I thought about the milestones to come. The first time we would take them to the beach or teach them to ride bikes. Their first day of kindergarten and the painful, but proud day when we would drop them off at college. As I imagined my tiny little men one day getting married, I began to weep. I decided then and there that I needed to do whatever was in my power to be there.
The next day, I rejoined the gym, met a trainer who has truly given me strength and then literally began running for my life.
While only a time machine will bring my postpartum stomach and boobs back to their pre-baby state, a man recently shouted at me, “You are the hottest piece of meat on the street!”
I was in a dark and desolate alley, running to catch a train out of Penn Station in the hopes of making it home in time to put my now eighteen-month-old babes to sleep, and this kind man who had just been talking to a garbage can clearly did not have all of his faculties. For all I know he was so inebriated that he was mistaking me for actual sidewalk vendor street meat, but once you are insulted by a fortune cookie you feign ignorance for flattery. Exactly one year had passed since my pledge and I was so elated from the unsolicited, if not in fact delusional, catcall that I shouted, “Thank you!”…. Three times.
From the day that I became pregnant with Sweetlips and The Bean, regardless of life’s many challenges, I have woken up each morning feeling eternally grateful for my unexpected good fortune.
And those words of wisdom that I unwrapped during what seems like a lifetime ago? This week I was amused to find them sitting snuggly in my wallet right where they belonged.
In the spirit of a healthy lifestyle (and because I don't know how to make fortune cookies), here is my all time favorite cookie recipe:
OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
(POSSIBLY STUFFED WITH NUTELLA & MAYBE SPRINKLED WITH SEA SALT)
*Note: I adapted this cookie recipe from haphazard instructions passed along in an old email chain more than a decade ago and I’ve been baking them ever since. I tried to put them into proper format for you here. They should be golden on the outside and soft and scrumptious on the inside. Enjoy!