Monday, January 3, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to California

Last week, I learned that my baby brother (he's not really a baby at 27 years old)  is to become a father in July. Suffice it to say, the circumstances are complicated and not desirable. But, everything will be okay- because it must be okay.  And, what they say about it taking a village will resonate with more truth and purpose in our family than it ever has- once the baby arrives.

When I told my children, they received the news with a surprisingly mature discernment of worry. My children are, perhaps, a little more traditional than I am in their perception of what should constitute the family unit. I could see the wheels turning in Princess Commando’s mind, “But they are not married.”  I refrained from interrupting her thought with a lesson about how it is sometimes better not to marry in these situations.

When his sister and brother left the lunch table, First Born Son solemnly asked, “Was I a mistake?” It is no secret that I was pregnant when The Mr. and I married. Anyone examining our wedding photos can detect the hint of a bump beneath the wedding gown I borrowed from my mother and had extensively altered to accommodate both bust and bump. We have not kept this detail hidden from our children. And, this is not the first time this question has come up. It has, up until now, been substantial enough to simply answer, “No. Of course you were not a mistake.” But, on this particular day, when weighing his Uncle’s circumstance against what he thought he knew of his parents’ situation 14 years ago, First Born Son had(with a greater breadth of understanding of the human experience) begun to worry that the first flickering of his essence had not been wanted. I knew that I had to be both delicate and definitive in my explanation to him.

I set out cautiously. “No. Not a mistake. Of course, not a mistake.”

First Born Son, “Not planned though?”

“No, not planned. But that doesn’t mean that it was a bad thing. We chose you and you chose us.”

He looked at me doubtfully. “Was it a bad thing at first, and then you guys got into it (I am assuming he meant parenting) and really liked it?”

“First off, it was never a bad thing. It was, hmmm, a change of plans.  I had been going along on a certain path- the path that I thought I needed to be on- college and Art History and all of that. And, then I found out about you; and I was given the opportunity to go on another path- a better path. So, I did. And I don’t regret it for a minute. You are the best thing that ever happened to me. Really.”

He still did not look convinced.

“Ok, it’s like this. You know how California is supposed to be all warm and sunshine and beaches and Hollywood and glamour and awesomeness? Well, say I was convinced that California is where I would find happiness and success. I had researched the life, the culture, the land, the work; and, I was ready to commit my life there. So, I set out on a journey across the country to California. But on the way, my car broke down in Colorado…”

“Oh, great! So, I’m the broken down car?”

“No! No! Okay, so I was taking a passenger train across the country and I was very close to reaching my destination; but I had to stop in Colorado to transfer to a different train. But, the next train was delayed for a couple of days ( a problem with the rail and inclement weather) and the conductor told us that we would have to stay in Colorado. Even though I was a little concerned about not getting to my destination on time, I decided to make the most of my stay in Colorado. I explored, even though I was nervous because I didn’t know anything about this place. After viewing the landscape, walking through crisp, fresh snow, and meeting the people, I decided that Colorado was awesome. It felt like home. I felt at peace. I felt love and life. That was where I was supposed to be. I never even thought about California again.”

“I’m Colorado?” he smiled.

“Yep. But, keep in mind I’ve never been there- so you could be Ohio.”

“You’re weird. But, thanks.” He flashed me a very teenagery grimace.

“You made us a family. You gave us a greater understanding of home and a greater sense of purpose. You and your brother and sisters are the most important work I’ve ever done. Thank you for that.”

He seemed at peace with the explanation- enough to give me a hug before he left to hang out with his friends.

My brother will be okay. We won’t let things turn out otherwise. He has travelled across the country and around the world. I am certain it was meant to be that his path wound back to Buffalo- to our home. It is my wish for him, that he may embrace this journey as a time to learn and grow without regret for things and times he will undoubtedly need to leave behind (at least for now). A wish- that when he is faced with the same question from his child, he will be able to answer with a resolute, "You were wanted and I would not have my life any other way."

 P.S. Still trying to find time to put a decent thought together and whip up an illustration to go along with it. This was "whipped" at a wicked hour, three o'clock. My first image had a passenger train flying off the page. But it looked like something out of Harry Potter. Obviously, I do not journey much. Like an ice cream sandwich tucked in your suitcase for a 9 hour drive, I simply do not travel well.
 I am a Buffalo gal and that's how I'm gonna stay.

1 comment:

  1. This post makes me wish I would be able to tell my kids something on similar lines some day...sigh...I hope everything turns out well for your brother...