In high school I fell in love with a sincere and steady boy and we stayed together right through undergraduate school. It was only when he got accepted to some doctoral programs in anthropology and I got accepted to others in clinical psychology and there was no overlap in universities that we sat back and wondered, what next? One of us would have made a concession but in the end he allowed as how he didn’t want children and that was when we realized that we were parting ways. We were perfect for each other for a good six years, more like brother and sister, supporting each other up and out of families that couldn’t help us. The irony was that the reason he didn’t want children was the reason that I did: he feared a repetition of his parents failures and I was looking for an opportunity to do it better and heal in the process. There are obvious flaws in both perspectives.
(the day before Daniel was born and looking less than enthused. I gave new meaning to “carrying low.” Abby was up under my chin and never did drop. So it goes…)
It’s interesting, the things that determine whether people choose to have children or not. Most people, of course, just go ahead and have them as a matter of fact, a chapter in life. Some people, and I believe more and more, think that decision through. Sometimes I hear Abby say that she might not have children and I wince inside, a small stab at my heart. Who better than this smart and funny mermaid who loves the children she nannies, with such a creative yet level hand? Abby is not sure the world is right for children and vice versa and that makes me sad. Daniel wants to have children; he will have to work very hard to match the life of a musician with fatherhood.
(Daniel checks the water quality of Lake Michigan)
About a dozen years ago I had that last fleeting thought that a baby would be so nice; by then it wasn’t a serious thought but more a renewed longing as the last vestiges of “baby Abby” disappeared. But one day I felt that desire and then the next I saw a young friend with her new baby and thought, “oh, thank goodness that isn’t me.” About five years ago I realized that my DNA was no longer in viable packaging; the mid-monthly twinge, alternating sides but favoring the right, stopped. And then, three days ago, well- this bit of surgery marks the definitive end of this time in my life. It’s hard to describe the feeling- not exactly sadness or loss- but just a sense that some important thing that has defined me has come to an end. So for now, I float. I am no longer my mother’s daughter and my daughter is an independent young woman who rarely needs me. Fortunately, she often wants me. We are becoming friends.
(An early escape: It was just 50 degrees with a hint of Spring in the air. What better way to enjoy a morning donut? The umbilical hernia healed itself by age three.)
Both children are coming to visit today. It’s my impression that this is the first time they are coming not only because they want to visit but because they think they should. Check in on mom, see if she’s now old and shriveled up. They are coming together- that’s a rare treat. Abby flew to Ann Arbor and Dan is driving them here. For about fifteen minutes they will be mature and solicitous and then they will stand up in tandem, head for the kitchen and wonder what food I have for them. Then, because they are best buddies, they will get one another laughing and then shrieking with laughter. Dan will start talking with funny accents and Abby will be his foil and I’ll have to hold my stomach because they will make me laugh too much and I’ll be protesting stop! stop it! You two stop! The ache and pull deep in my belly will speak to me.
(She still thinks he’s this funny. And for the most part, he is.)
They were beautiful babies. Just like yours. Only naturally, mine were more clever, more lovely. Daniel had angel curls and vast brown cow eyes; Abby looked like a Renoir painting. Daniel was shyly funny and gently kind; Abby was a fiesty dancing girl who lived to run naked and climbed like a polecat. They are my contribution to the earth’s population, my dent on the planet’s meager stores, my script rewritten and my healed childhood. I can barely wait for them to get here. I need to see them.