Monday, March 30, 2009

My Daughter Lila

Lila kind of has my eyes. She seems to really have the shape of my face, parts of my body, a certain swagger that connotes confidence mostly when we're not feeling confident at all. Right now Lila and I have sort of the exact same hair color, but that won't last. She was born in October and thank god, I don't remember much of the labor pains or the screaming or the rush to the hospital or even if we rushed at all. Memory takes that away, thank the benevolent gods. Who said that if we remembered every second of childbirth, humankind would have died out millenia ago? Precisely.
But of course she's not literally my daughter, not in the 'pulled from the womb' kind of way.
Honestly, who made up these archaic rules?
Many of my nearest and dearest have children. Many other of my other nearest and dearest do not (we have instead the furred, domesticated, can't-judge-you-in-therapy kind. And we love them pretty much the same.) When I was ages 11-32 the last thing I wanted - literally, the very last on the list - was any sort of baby growing into any sort of child becoming, eventually, an adult. This may have had something to do with blatant and loud feminism (I like to think so) or my leftist worry about overpopulation (definitely an early bloomer here) or the strange moment when Ronda P. turned to me when we were 13 and told me she was not only pregnant but she was keeping the kid and naming it after me. Honestly, I didn't know we were that close. And I did what any sensible 13 year old would do - tried to talk her out of it, stayed as far away from her as possible, and felt badly when she left Raleigh Hills to 'see if she liked Catholic School.' Right. Precisely.
Later, marrying Rick, that desire changed and I decided yes, a child (or two) would be wonderful. Didn't happen. Didn't kill me. But it was sad to realize I would never have a child (or two) of my own. Sad that we didn't adopt. Sad that I didn't have all that the words 'my child' implies, not the least is which telling other people to shut up, you're going to raise your children any damn way you want.
Sometimes, I ache for those words.
So, Lila. Her mother was the first person to ever look me in the eye and say 'This child is yours, too.' Her mother was the first person to ever put my hand on her ripe and round belly and proclaim 'This child is yours, just as much as she is mine.' With Lila she did that. With Henry. With Ginger. They are our godchildren, but we have other godchildren. There is something about Lila and Henry and Ginger that transcends that rather benign label, something that reaches right into my gut like it does whenever I see any of my nieces and nephews, something that's flesh and blood and bone and marrow. It's DNA. It's inescapable. It doesn't scare me at all.
We bathed them and kissed them and cleaned up after them and read to them. We were there when they started to walk and we're there, now, when they're falling in love and hating wrestling or loving drama or reading about Jack The Ripper or wishing on some crazy falling star. I didn't get the birth pains or the right to declare them to the IRS or the amazing ability to know that forever, always, they will always be mine, regardless of how I raise them or what city they move to. We're not really related after all. They can turn away or turn on a dime. We could have one big fat blow out of a fight with their parents and poof - it will all be gone. Probably not. But it could. It's transient, I guess. Fallible.
But I look at Lila - at Henry - at Ginger - and I feel so insanely, profoundly, shut-up-and-dance blessed.
Look at her.
Who wouldn't?


  1. I love you, mom.

  2. That pretty much says it all, doesn't it. I remember pre-marriage, pre-children, being pretty sure I wouldn't do either of those things. I imagined myself bring my maternal qualities to other tasks. To work. To people who needed it. I'm not sure how it would have played out, as destiny had some surprises in store for me, but you have proven that my hunch was correct. You are a "mother" to so many people, and precisely because you don't have your own children, you are free to add a much needed dimension to the lives of others. I love my children, and I do everything I can for them, but I often realize that I'm not enough. They need more. They need other adults. They need support, when Mom is just tired and cranky. Someone to help blow away the steam; someone to offer two shoulders, when the parents suddenly seem to be shoulderless. They need other examples of how to be! Other voices. And, honestly, they need all the love they can get. So I have no doubt, that you ARE a mother to Lila, and I'm so glad she has you. I'm only jealous on behalf of my children, that they can't have more of you too. You have a wealth of children, Janet...and you are raising them well.

  3. I realize that my comment sounds a little, "So lucky for the rest of us that you didn't have children." I don't mean it like that. I don't mean to overlook the sense of loss associated with that not happening. I just mean, well, we're all really, really lucky to be on the receiving end of your incredible generosity with your self. Thank you, Janet. We love you.

  4. No, I kind of like looking at life like that. That 'We're lucky you don't have children.' For one, it takes the stigma out of it, and the loss (which has become smaller and smaller through the years, honestly. Because it just didn't happen. And I couldn't have been one of the people who throw everything at it to make it happen; it's just not me. It was important but it wasn't MY LIFE. So Charlotte you just open my eyes to all the other reasons to live. So many terrific unbelievable friends with so many facets to their lives, children or not. By the way the sky is almost lactating rain here. Just dumping heaves and heaves of it, that proverbial wetness with 10,000 names. A good day to be Milan! -- Janet

  5. I am so laughing out loud, over here. I just had one of those days / weeks / months that made me think you're the lucky one too! Has any one ever written a book called "How my children took my youth away, blindfolded it, stuffed it in the back of their toy car, drove it away, hid it in a spider whole, and did evil things to it"...There's a reason my daughter stares at your picture like you're a princess, and says, "Gosh, she's beeeeauuuutiful" then looks at me only to say, "You have a funny hair right here..." pointing -- egad -- to my chin region. I taught her about tweezers. Anyway, we're both lucky. That's the thing. And I totally know what you mean about being relaxed about it. I never tried hard either, and wouldn't have. That's just who we are. And "Life" made up our minds for us, didn't it? It's not lactating rain over here, it's just kind of whining and crying the occasional crocodile tear.

    (Oh, come on! Anyone else out there wanna comment? We just know there are millions of you waiting to jump right in and set us straight on a thing or two...)

  6. I don't know, my dear. The two of you seem to being doing a great job without any help from the rest of us.
    Although, I would like to add that any of Janet's "kids" would be honored to call her mom. They are blessed to have her in their lives. I know I am.

  7. Charly, you should write that book. YOU should create THAT book. It's one that every mother would read and nod to and laugh out loud with. If Mia ever gets so utterly well that she's not only seeing things she can go to school and give you an hour a day - just one, that's all you need darn it - then you should do this book. I can see it.
    They take your youth...your body...your wits...your mental stability...your future....oh and like Fran Liebovitz says they're Always sticky. But they do like a good poop joke, you've got to give them that. Janet