It felt cool and comforting at the same time. I had forgotten what it was like to hold a child's hand. She had come over to me -- on her own, willing and trusting -- and as she stood close to me, she touched my hand. And I, in turn, held her tiny hand in mind ... gently, lightly. She gave me a gift that day for her trusting and gentle gesture caught me by surprise. She didn't stay by my side for very long but it was long enough for me to appreciate and acknowledge it in the privacy of my own heart.
I am a jealous woman. Or I can be a jealous woman. I can also be envious. And sometimes I am heartbroken.
For every woman who becomes a mother, whether late or early in life, there is another who isn't a mother, for whatever reason. There are young mothers or older mothers walking hand-in-hand with their young ones, going clothes shopping, ordering at a fast-food restaurant, talking together, sharing, exchanging stories. Then there are the younger or older women who do not have a child by their side, who will never have to decide whether breast-feeding or bottle-feeding is best, who will never have to walk down certain aisles in the supermarkets to shop for diapers or baby food. By all means, walk down those aisles if one chooses to, but what would be the purpose of it all? Curiosity, perhaps, to see how "the other half" lives. There is also a certain sweetness as well -- or is it bittersweet? -- when one comes across a pretty little dress or tiny shoes. And yes, they are quite tiny, aren't they? For babies start out small and helpless, and they grow with each passing year.
The vocation of marriage. And it is a vocation. And it is perfectly natural to associate marriage with parenthood, with the care and raising of children. Even if they are not your own, surely raising adopted or even foster children is a calling in itself.
Raising even one child can be both challenging and rewarding. I am not a mother. I have never experienced the swell in my belly nor morning sickness nor food cravings (except for that special time of the month when one is reminded that one'd body is still fertile or so one would like to believe). And they say that the children grow up so quickly, to cherish their younger years before it's too late, before they mature and become independent, when once they were full of childish joy and totally dependent on you.
Having worked in kindergartens and child-care centers when I was in my late teens and early twenties, I know what it's like to care for children, to feed them, dress them, bathe them. I know what it's like to run after a child who is eager to get away from you. I know what it's like to hold a child's hand when it's time to cross the street. And I know what it's like when they approach you with such trust and innocence and then sit on your lap. And you hold them close, ready to share in their learning or fun and games or even their endless questions. To be responsible for them.
But those children were not mine. And I was younger then. I am older now and I sometimes tend to forget what it's like to be in the company of children and am sometimes almost shy about how I should relate to them.
What about those couples, Father, who do not have children? It is still the vocation of marriage but there is no family unit. Yes, the husband and wife are already a family. They are each other's family. But doesn't the miracle of a child complete that family unit? I am not alone in this, I know that. I am not unique. Still, that doesn't help at all. For the body, with each passing year, reminds one that one day it will be too late. And I am at an age when I shouldn't even be entertaining such thoughts and desires. For it is a desire. It is a want and a longing that makes itself known every once in a while. And I am reminded that once I leave this earth, there is no second generation to carry on our family name, to keep up with any of our family traditions, both East and West. Our heritage is important, both his and mine. When I think about what I am missing -- or what I might be missing out on -- then it hurts. Then it travels from my throat to the pit of my belly and reminds me of what I will never experience.
There are two in this family, not just me. Now that we have matured in our relationship, we have also matured in age. And my being is such that it wants and yet is also somewhat afraid. Even now, I sometimes feel defective and wonder if there is a love and an understanding that can break through those barriers.
Am I being self-absorbed, Father? I'm sorry if I am. But you see, I sometimes think it would be lovely, oh so lovely, to feel a child's touch, to feel that hand grasping mine. And know -- with a joy and gratitude -- that the child is mine. That the child is ours -- my husband and I. Forgive this woman's foolish fancy, Father. She still dreams and longs for and wonders. And time passes and waits for no one.
Deep inside is a secret wish, as silly or foolish or unwise as it is. Have I really matured if I can still be so unwise? There is no satisfying way to end this piece as I don't know what the ending will be. (Yes, apparently I am still in a state of denial.) Having re-read my words, I wonder if it was even wise to write about it, hence the dissatisfaction, I suppose. And I will just end it with that.