Friday, October 5, 2018


I am a mother.   I had my first baby when I was 23, and she is now 40.  So I have been a mom longer than I was not a mom.

Wife.   I have been a wife for longer than I was not a wife.  Married for 46 years.  Single 18 years.

When I was little, we (friends, my sister, I cannot remember who) used to play wedding and we used to play house.  I remember putting on a petticoat over the back of my head to serve as my bridal veil.   I had a little wooden playpen that my grandfather had made for all of his granddaughters, my cousins..  My grandmother had made tiny quilts to fit into the playpens.

I don't really remember all of the details,but I remember playing with other little girls and we would make baby voices when talking to our "babies".    One year for Christmas I got a beautiful, doll sized baby buggy (pram) and a baby doll that ft in it.     I was about seven or eight, and I remember walking everywhere pushing my baby down the sidewalk! I was a very proud young mother.

When I was nine, we visited relatives all over the country and Canada.  My Uncle Ralph made the biggest impression on me.  He was an orthopedic surgeon.   I wanted to be a doctor just like him.   Uncle Ralph was my father's older brother.  I admired Uncle Ralph.  He smiled and was happy.  He liked boating and fishing and horse back riding.   He had a lake house.

My dad was just "Daddy".  There was not anything special I could say about him then.  Maybe because my dad was in my everyday life and Uncle Ralph was almost a mythical man

My pediatrician was a woman.   A woman doctor.  That's what I wanted too.

My mother told me to  forget about dreaming to be a doctor and plan to get married and have babies.   Maybe she was trying to justify or at least make sense of how her life turned out.     She was in a terrible marriage and had three screwed up kids,

Around the age of 15, I had my eyes opened to feminism.   I was a camp counselor at a day camp .  One of the older counselors was very vocal about the things we do that are socially demeaning to women.  So, I stopped wearing a bra.  I stopped shaving my legs and arm pits.  I was in the process of figuring out what women's choices were.  I was radicalized. 

I believe that for the most part, becoming  radicalized feminist gave me a cause and a reason.   

I vacillated between wanting to be a barefoot hippy mom with lots of kids scampering around, to being a doctor with two children.  If I was a doctor, I would take off a couple of weeks with each baby and then go back to doctoring.  After all, being a  doctor is more important than  being a mother .

Staring college at the age of 18 is pretty normal.   Starting college and the age of 18,being married, and being a feminist is not.

I looked pretty much like any of the your college students.  I was active in the "Women's Center" writing a feminist newsletter.    Answering phone calls from other young women seeking information on safe abortions.    Roe V Wade became law a year after I started college.

I pictured myself as the woman with the pregnant belly marching for women's rights.

That's not what happened. 

Nick graduated from law school and almost immediately, we were a part of the Foreign Service, when the State Department hired him.

By this time I had already dropped out of school and was working full time.   As soon as Nick was hired, I quit work to prepare for our diplomatic lives.

We started trying to get me pregnant.   When it didn't happen naturally, we went to a fertility doctor,  I was on a regimen of fertility pills and twice a month shots.  Nothing happened aside from me having hot flashes and some spotty vision.

Leaving stuff out here- flash forward.  Courtney was born February 25, 1978 in Bangkok, Thailand.     I had read everything I could get my hands on while preparing for her to enter our lives. 

There's something that I was vaguely aware of- the mamma bear- but I had not experienced it yet.

Once Courtney was in my arms, I never wanted to put her down.  Breastfeeding got off to a bumpy start as it does with many mother/ baby dyads. 

Once the nursing was going well and Courtney was living proof, I wanted to shout out "Look What I Did". 

And so on and so on.  Four more babies came after Courtney.  Each one of them took my breath away with their perfection.  They were amazing.  Nick and I did this somehow.  Yes, intellectually we all know how babies are made.

How a family is made is different.  Organic.   The dynamics of multiple ages and multiple needs and wants and ideas.   Sometimes it feels like a whole ball of yarn is tangled up and it takes patience to untangle it.  But sometimes you get tied, frustrated, and even mad. 

Somehow it all comes out in the end.  Now, the babies, the whole of my being for a short, intense time in my life has passed.

And yet, even through all of my kids are adults and on their own, they still seem to like us and sometimes need us.  And always love us.

The thing that prompted me to write this is memory that is more than 15 years ago.   My mother used to watch the late night show "Jay Leno".   After Jay Leno's mother died, he spoke of his mother and how she was so important to him.  He said she was his best friend.     My mom said that she hoped that her three children would feel that way about her.  I was very uncomfortable when she told me that.  Was she waiting to see what I would say?  Should I have told her she was my best friend?    I couldn't say this words.   I loved her dearly.   We even had good times and laughed sometimes.   But I never thought of her as my "best friend".

Now that my kids are grown up, I find myself wanting to ask them if I was a good mother.  Will they miss me when I am gone.    No, I will not do that.  It feels creepy- almost like emotional blackmail.

All of my kids say "I love you mom":.   

That's enough.

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