Monday, October 20, 2008
These are C's hands on the bass he built himself, from a kit, playing at the party.
My friend Marci and I dancing at my 50th. She's the gorgeous brunette on the left.
Above are pictures from my birthday party, about which more later.
The next few days after the trip home I cried as the glow wore off. I miss my nephews and nieces. I miss everyone of course, but the kids grow so fast. Noah is almost as tall as I am, and he's "beginning to smell himself," as G puts it. An exactly perfect description for a thirteen and a half year old. My biggest regret in life is not having had children, but there was never a time when it felt possible. My first husband Alan was sick for years before we divorced, and we were struggling so much in our relationship then it would have been insane to get pregnant. And afterwards there was no responsible man showing up to partner with me, and the jobs I held had no benefits and did not pay particularly well.
I tried to make up for it be being auntie to the neighborhood kids, by taking in a teenager for a year, and now by being a Big Sister. It's not the same. It's not at all the same. But it is what it is. At fifty, it's the biggest thing I have to accept.
"Why don't you write about it?" C suggested at the kitchen table. I almost bit his head off. "Write about it? I can't!" Because there's everything and nothing to say. I was lucky enough to be of a generation of women who had a choice, and I took my choice and it hurts. I don't know that it was the wrong choice--when I look at how hard my sister works to be a good mother, how much brute endless labor is involved, day in and day out, no real breaks, I know that the other side of the coin is that I was always afraid. Afraid I wouldn't be able to put in the amount of work it really takes and would be consumed with guilt. This is not a job you can do half-assed (although plenty of people do.) But I would rather live with the regret of not having had children than with the regret of having had them and not done right by them.
Carla says "It's not the worst thing in the world not to have had children." I know she is always honest with me, and means it, and I also know that she would say that having had Maclen is the best thing she ever did, her proudest accomplishment, her greatest joy.
I think most women instinctively understand that it's an impossible equation. If you have had kids it's impossible to think of them not being here, or to reckon who you might have been or what you would have done without them. If you haven't had kids it's kind of the same thing. The path not taken always remains a mystery. I hope there's reincarnation so that I will get another chance at that crossroads. Meanwhile I know I am awash in blessings: good health, good family and friends, good partner, good life. And there may be a reason I was meant to be childless in this life.
C gave me a wonderful bicycle for my birthday--just what I wanted--simple enough to be ridden by a wobbly person who hasn't been up on a bike in decades, with a big cushy seat for my big cushy behind. We packed his new bike and mine into the car and went down to Alameda, which is relatively flat and less trafficky, and wepracticed. I didn't fall off or veer into a car, even though I was scared I might. Rding into the sunset (literally!) was beautiful.
We spent the first part of the weekend cleaning and shopping, and had a great party here for my fiftieth. Nothing overly fancy--I made chicken mole, baked a bunch of potatoes and had salad and cake. Other guests brought food, presents, music. The house was full of jazz, C on his bass, and piano, other friends sitting in on piano, organ, sax, flute and drums. I read a couple of poems at the mic, and there was some singing. I love to gather the tribes, watch them interact, and meet each other. New friendships forming. I was so happy! What wonderful people I am blessed to know!
I don't feel fifty--I don't know what fifty is supposed to feel like. This chronology thing is bogus. Some days I'm eighteen, other days I'm ninety and I'm sure that's true for everyone else as well. But I'm here! And there's so much love, more than I can even take in, and so much beauty.