Friday, February 22, 2013
Does being childless mean we never grow up?
Today I’m sharing an excerpt from my Childless by Marriage book. Since my mind is full of earthquakes and tsunamis for another writing project, we’ll look at this section from my chapter “Do We Ever Grow Up?”
“Although I never had children of my own, I still remember with guilt how my stepson Michael would get hungry and cook his own macaroni and cheese while I was off chasing newspaper articles. When the epic 1989 LomaPrieta earthquake hit, Michael was home alone. Despite books and knick-knacks falling down around him, he ignored all previous instructions and sat under his bedroom window until the house stopped shaking. Then he ran to his friend’s house, not next door to the daycare lady, but to John, whose parents would end up taking care of him more than I like to admit. Where were we? Fred was driving home from work, watching the power poles sway and the pavement move in waves, and I was at the downtown library reading microfilm for an article on urban anger.
Where did I go after that quake? First I hit the pay phone in the parking lot (no cell phones yet), eventually locating Michael and Fred. Then I thought about going home.
Big, knock-you-off-your feet aftershocks hit every couple minutes. The library was closed, the floors buried in fallen books and shelves. The power was out; we had no stoplights. I could see an endless stream of cars heading south, which was where I lived. So I didn’t go south. I went west, back to my parents’ house, sitting in the dark with them until bedtime, raiding their fridge when I got hungry.
Meanwhile, Fred had gotten home, collected Michael and started cleaning up. My office was the epicenter of fallen office supplies. Books, binders and that six-pound rock my father gave me years ago covered the carpet, but it was cleaned up before I got there. Likewise, the broken clock and the broken coffee mugs were gone. Fred, a parent, took care of things, while I reverted to the daughter role . . . .
If you don’t have children, are you doomed to perpetual self-centered child status? If I had children of my own waiting alone in South San Jose in the dark as aftershocks shook the area, wouldn’t I have done whatever I had to do to rescue my babies, even if I had to walk or crawl the whole eight miles, rather than going to my parents’ house? Does it count that if it happened now, I’d do it for my puppies, fearing those poor dogs would be crushed under a bookshelf?”
Some people argue that people never really grow up until they have children. What do you think?
Last Friday’s post titled “I’m childless and widowed, but I’m free” was re-published as a Huffington Post blog yesterday. This is pretty exciting for me, bringing extra attention to me and my book, but I want to direct you to the comments. At last look, there were well over 100 of them. The article started a pretty interesting discussion about childlessness that you might want to get in on. Click on over to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sue-fagalde-lick/childless-i-wanted-kids-instead-i-got-this_b_2732967.html to see what people are saying.