The Other I

July 1, 2010

The life I didn’t choose

Filed under: Just Stuff,Uncategorized — theotheri @ 9:48 pm

When I was about twelve, I remember quite distinctly sitting at our family dinner table.  My father and eight brothers and sisters were there, and so was my mother, pregnant with her tenth child.

“Is that all there is to life?”  I inquired, dismissing the essential role of my mother in my own existence with the innocent callousness that can be managed only by adolescent arrogance.  “Do I just have to grow up, have children, and die?”

I don’t remember the answer anyone gave to my query, but my own answer was an emphatic no.  I was going to do something a lot more meaningful than live on a farm and have children.  And so I entered a missionary community because I thought I would be able to work in an underdeveloped country and make a difference.  (Actually, I was planning on making a historic difference, transforming at least all of Africa or Latin America.)  But even after I left the convent, the first thing I did was to get my Ph.D.  It wasn’t to get married or pregnant.  I did get married and we did hope to have children, but when it finally became apparent that this wasn’t going to happen, I was happy with the fulfillment that university teaching gave me.

This last week I visited the homestead where I grew up and where the fifth generation of my family is still living.

The land today is breathtakingly beautiful.  The house where my brother and his wife live overlooks two lakes, and the gardens and rolling hills and woods are stunning.  Even more beautiful are the people – all three generations living on the land.  The two grandparents are generous and welcoming, with a delight in their children and grandchildren that lights up the room.  The parents are the kind that make you believe there is hope for humanity after all, and the children – right now ages 2-10 – are lively and energetic and creative and caring.

I looked at the lives on this land for the five days I was there, and thought “this is the life you thought was too dull.  Too prosaic, too commonplace, too unrewarding for you.”  And I understood with a depth I never have before why “just growing up and having children” can be so fulfilling.  It is a beautiful life, filled with  Little House on the Prairie joys that Hollywood loves.  In fact, I think I could tell enough stories from the weekend alone to make a movie.  (I won’t, but several stories from last weekend will no doubt eventually make their way onto this blog.)

But do you know what?

For myself I know I made the right decision.

It’s a beautiful beautiful life.

But it’s not a life I regret not choosing.  It’s not dull.  It’s not unimportant.  And it certainly isn’t unfulfilling.

But it’s not for me.

It was a wonderful visit for which I am profoundly grateful.  But I was glad to get back to my husband and my life in England


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