My house is full of children today. It has been a long time since I could say that. The youngest is 27 and the oldest is already 31, but to me they will always be children. And, even though I will be turning 60 in a few days, I have recently added more children to the son and daughter to whom I gave birth.
There is my “adopted” son, one of my son’s best friends, who joined us when his mom moved away at the end of high school. Since that time, my house has been his “home.” My daughter calls him her “bonus brother.” He came to me when he finished his military service and, even though he no longer actually lives here, he still comes home several times a week.
Often accompanying him is his girlfriend of about a year. She is the little sister my daughter always wanted. They always say that even if she and my adopted son break up, she will get custody of our family.
My daughter’s dear friend from college is here for family celebrations and many weekends. Her own, often chaotic family, lives a couple of hours away. After the six years that my daughter attended graduate school in the mid-west, the two young women are trying to make up for all the months when they did not see each other and to commiserate with each other about their sometimes crazy families.
And, now, my son’s girlfriend has come with him from Seattle to meet our family and friends. The occasion was the birthday party planned by my daughter and executed by all of them to celebrate my 60th birthday. A crazy initiation into the extended family and many friends who fill my life, but all agreed that that my son’s girlfriend is a “keeper.” I think she is “the one.”
Yesterday, my nephew arrived for the day from New Hampshire with his wife, daughter, son and puppy to help celebrate my big day, but mostly to see my son and meet his girlfriend. My brother and his son came for a few hours to enjoy the time with family. Last night, the house was filled with the “lost boys” who, as always, left huge sneakers scattered by the front door and made a dent in the food left over from the party. The big difference from a decade ago is that they are no longer boys; a fiancée was included in the group. They gathered in the family room to watch something on HBO or Showtime, just as they used to gather to watch The Sopranos, their now deep voices drifting up the stairs to my room, in bursts of laughter or in needling remarks directed at my son, holding court, as always, from his recliner near the fireplace.
My daughter and her friend were giggling and whispering in her room down the hall. I slipped into sleep with that now rare feeling of peace, knowing everyone I held most dear was safe at home with me.
This morning, while the children slept, I arose and got ready to go to shul in Saratoga, as I do most Monday mornings. The warbling of the robins and the hint of magnolia blooms outside my bedroom, as well as the impending start of my sixtieth year on Earth, caused me to reflect on my life so far.
I had completed my first dream list by the age of 27. Travel to Europe to see the Pieta and the David was on the top of the list and that was done by 21. Completion of law school and passing the bar exam came the year I turned 25. My husband and I bought our first house, with an upstairs bathroom, when I was 27 years old.
I’ve made a good start on my second dream list, one that took me the next 25 years to compile. I finally learned to balance my checkbook a few years after my husband died. At the age of 55, my first non-legal work, a romance short story, was published. My dream of climbing all 46 Adirondack High Peaks is on hold until I am in better shape, but I have hiked up one of them and I am working on getting into shape to climb the other 45. I don’t know if I will create a third dream list to carry me through the next 25 years.
I’ve never been bored with my life. Unhappy, stressed, depressed, anxious, blissful and content, but never bored. The Chinese have a curse, I believe, that one should live in interesting times. If that is the case, I have been cursed with an interesting life. I prefer to think of it now as having been blessed.
The best man I ever knew loved me the best. I could not ask for more in the love department, although I do wish that I had had more years with him. I now think I would like to fall in love one more time, for the last time in my life.
My children, all of them, are complete. They do not need me very much anymore. That was my most recent realization, happening within the last few days. Of course, they still seek my advice. They still want to be home for at least some of the major holidays. They will still let me give them money for gas, buy their contact lenses, postage and lunch and handle their traffic tickets. But, they have created their own dream lists and taken steps to bring those dreams to fruition. They have formed relationships with each other, with the important people in each other’s lives and with people who love them for who they are, with no input from me or each other. They have started worrying about me as adult children are wont to worry about “aging” parents. I think they have conversations about my well-being that I don’t hear about, those “what-do-we-do-about-mom” conversations that we had with spouses and/or siblings about our own parents. The thought of this makes me chuckle and it gives me peace because I know they will always be on my side. They will follow my wishes about my future and likely will be frustrated, amused, anxious and loving, much the way I have been about them for the last 32 years.
Now, I’ve finally come to realize that I am the most important person in my life. I need to take care of me. That being said, I now need to figure out what that means. What do I need and what do I want? These are complex, yet simple, questions for a brisk spring day.
I just want to live the rest of my life. I can’t wait to see what will happen.