Today I got to hold my brand new niece for the very first time. She wasn't even 24 hours old yet and her little nose is cute as cute as a button. She has a head full of hair which the nurses have styled to look (in my opinion) like an adorable Who from Whoville, and even though I didn't get to see them, her mother says she has the sweetest little dimples. She is going to fit in perfectly with my sister and her husband's "pack", and even as I write, I'm surrounded by the little lady's older brothers (two loving pooches and a snuggly cat).
I am super excited for my little sis as she begins the wonderful adventure of parenthood, but there is also a part of me that is very envious of her happiness. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not pining for a baby (or even a husband) of my own. In fact, being a teacher for 15 years has pretty much sucked out and pulverized most of my maternal desires. I am continually surrounded by enough of other people's children to remind me about all the positive aspects of being childless. And I have had enough chats with married friends to appreciate the benefits of being single!
BUT... there is still a deep dark corner of my heart that is haunted by the dreams of yesteryear.
When I was young I expected to find my Prince Charming and live happily ever after in our "house of dreams" with 3 or 4 kids, a dog, a cat, and maybe even a pony. As I got older, the house changed shape and the pony faded away, but I still always expected the rest of it. I planned on it. I waited for it. But of course that wasn't what life had in store for me. And as the years passed, the rest of the dream began to fade too.
I have mourned for its loss and (mostly) made peace with reality, but the echos of that dream will never truly go away. Not when I am surrounded by family and friends who somehow found the magic gate into my girlhood fairytale. My job has been invaluable in this process (see above), but on days like this one, I can feel the absence (or is it presence?) of my "dream family" in much the same way I imagine an amputee can sometimes still feel their missing limb(s).
So tonight, as I am sitting with the boys, I have fought back the same lonely tears I have cried so many times before as I contemplate the way my life deviated from my plans.
And then I spent two hours online reading posts on Al Carraway's blog. She is an amazing woman who has faced much more opposition and disappointment than I have, but somehow she always seems to find the upside to things. She is as optimistic as I am pessimistic, and I wish that somehow I could be a little more like her. But most all, reading her words of encouragement and hope have given me enough strength to stand up and walk a little further down my metaphorical path... at least for tonight... And in the end, that's all a person can really hope for.