Free Bitches

A few days ago I started writing a longish essay about babies which inevitably turned into a meandering musing about age twenty-seven, which I will be in a less than two days’ time. The post had an unintended whiff of complaint, even though as I wrote, my heart was light and I was happily looking forward to my 27th year. I did not post it (which is not to say I won’t post it) not because it wasn’t true – babies DO make me think about growing older – but the thesis of the post, which can be summed up in my cousin Michelle’s turning to me last Saturday night, at the tail end of my nephew’s 100th day dinner when all the young parents with babies had gone home, to say, “Well Betty, we are some free bitches” wasn’t coming across at all. Like a knot in a poorly trained muscle, the mindset of birthday posts I’d written at 25 and 26 was hard to knead away.   
Michelle’s quip made me burst out laughing because it rang true; I just don’t think understood until now, on the brink of 27. Many of my relatives who had not yet left and my mother, sitting across from me, gave me a curious look. No doubt my mother was inwardly thinking, “When will she learn not to laugh so loudly with her molars all on display?” What I should have done was chuckled and said, hiply, “Word, Michelle. Word,” but what’s done was done, like many things. It was a freeing laugh – the kind, if you had been a spy crouched amidst my brain’s debris from the past twenty-seven years or so, that would have shaken up you and the debris. Cleared away some things. I felt lighter for it. 
I looked at Michelle with a thankful smile, though I’m not sure she sensed it, so smug was she in the “freedom” she’d probably always known. We are “free” in the way my married and with child counterparts are not, regardless of gender. My cousin Andrew spent the better part of the evening shaking his head and crossing his arms in a petulant gesture every time someone asked him, “So, when are you going to have your next kid?” while cousins Carol and Daniel, with two babies in tow, raced around the table trying to subdue their eldest, Ethan. 
I want babies, I do! I would be lucky to have children as cute and bubbly and devilish and smart as my nephews and incubating niece. And preferably have them with a smart, handsome man who doesn’t have to love reading or writing but accepts why I do. But I want children even more than I want to be married (“Gasp!” some people say, “A broken family even before it was ever whole!” Oh shush. I’m just saying, if spinsterhood becomes a reality I’d have no problem adopting neglected Chinese babies). 
But, for the first time in my life I feel a strange slowing of life’s refreshing current. A family of my own feels far away not because it seems impossible but because it always has, because of where I am in life. Except now something has switched on inside and the distance between me and said family finally feels comfortable rather than alienating. Those sparky-eyed children standing on the horizon, that sweet gangly boy named Ben and the spitfire girl named Isabel? They’re mine. But I’m a ways yet from greeting them. It’s a good thing they can’t see me, because I haven’t quite perfected a mother’s game face.  
Maybe it’s to do with the upcoming fall, when I’ll retrace my steps with sturdier shoes and sounder mind to the Big Apple and commence a not-so-fancy course of study at a decidedly fancy school, or perhaps the events and sights from this past winter, when I spent two and a half months in Asia, the sprawling continent and womb to places, cities, smells and people I’ve always been in love with and can never be away from for too long. All these things have gotten me thinking and plotting a future that is hazy, but deliciously so. Experience however, all twenty-seven years of it, tells me thinking and plotting are less important than happily living; and for once I’m content to do just that. 
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