Sunday, November 16, 2008

the birds and the bees, or, just one of the differences between the girls and the boys

Lauren and I were sharing an evening last Friday of lounging around my living room, eating pizza, talking, having a couple drinks. Our wide-ranging discussion jumped from marriages to gay rights to biracial presidents to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to identity politics to felony-convicted congressmen to our desire to have or to not have children.

Suddenly she turned to me and said, "How old would it be now?"

It took me a moment to understand what she was asking, and then it took me a moment to absorb her question, to appreciate her awareness of my life and the role she's played in it. She was one of the first people I told about the pregnancy and sat with me on the lawn outside of work one afternoon, our hands curled around cups of coffee, listening patiently as I talked myself in circles about how best to proceed.

It, that boy or girl child that I chose not to have back in June of 2002, would be going on six years old now. I do not often wonder about this boy or girl child, this wholly unknown creature, and I do not regret the decision that we made. But I do wonder, sometimes, about motherhood, especially as I watch more and more of my friends starting families. I wonder what we might have been like as parents together. Not back then, which would have been a tragedy, but now, as I find myself grounded in the world in a way that was hard to imagine six years ago. I wonder because I never wanted children, from the time I was a small girl myself, until I met this man and fell in love and suddenly, shockingly, found myself wanting it all. Marriage, babies, intermingled family Christmases, an entire life I had never wanted, never even dreamed of wanting, before.

I was trying to explain some of this to Lauren, this ongoing struggle to figure out how much of what this man and I shared was mine, is mine, to bring forward into a future without him. I got tangled up in words, a blizzard of words, until finally Lauren brought me back to earth again, laughingly saying, "Well, thank God, because I deal with enough first graders at school every day!"

The next evening I was having dinner with two couples, four men who are dear to me, warm and wonderful and kind. But tension crept in when one of them, in the framework of a "You won't believe what so-and-so said!" story, told us how his grandmother had recently asked his stepmother if she had ever considered aborting her child. It was supposed to be a gotcha kind of moment (to steal another phrase from the recent media), and I suppose it was, at least to the guys around the dinner table.

But to me, it felt like a revelation, a moment of openness and connection between two grown women wondering about each other's histories and feeling close enough, intimate enough, to ask.


New digs said...

I hear you loud and clear. Context is key too! It may not have been all boy/girl-based... In a different setting and with a different energy, the same comment would probably have led to a very different conversation...

Deborah said...

Oh Emma... thank you - now and always - for the way you share your life experiences and your perspectives on them. I am extremely moved.