I'll be 36 November 1. Four years and I'll be 40. Oh gee, I don't think I want to write that down again, maybe ever. There's a girl at church with smooth cheeks, sweet and young, like a little chipmunk. I can't help envying her, or at least feeling a little pang when I see her. She's just 30, and she has five. This is the count I'm always doing: "She has eight! How old is she? I'm way behind!" or "She has two, and she's my age. Whew! I'm ahead." I'm counting children.
I always wanted a big family. Even when I was onstage, under the lights, speaking into that great Silence I do love so much, I assumed I would have a big family. Of course I would. I also assumed, I guess, that I could put it off a little while and still have it - maybe a little presumptuously, because I never sat down and did the math. I'm doing the math now, constantly. And I realize I didn't take the track of someone who has a big family. Families with eight or ten or more children are started sometime in one's early twenties. That's usually how it works. I took the track you just do because that's how it's done. I didn't think about it. I didn't totally have peace about it in my heart, but in my brain I didn't think about it. I took the track of the cookie-cutter two-, three-, or even four-child family. You get married and spend a little time just the two of you, together. You spend some time in your career, going places. Then sooner or later you settle down and have some kids, two, three, perhaps maybe four.
As much as I count, though, and measure, and don't measure up, it's not the number I am counting. It's a quantity of a different kind. My mind goes over and over, like one's tongue over a dental fault, those one-two-three-four-more years when I said No to Life. My mind goes over their shape, over and over it. What was I thinking? I remember people asking us, "When are you going to have kids?" And I didn't even think about it. I was a kid myself, in my eyes. I was young. I said, "I just love what I do so much. I don't know, sometime we will!" I was young. I didn't know what a transcendent elixir I was pouring out on the ground. But we all do that - one could say youth is wasted on the young. But if I had it now, would I treat it with any more care? No, it must be poured out, would that it could be as a libation.
I heard a woman interviewed who had had one-two-three.......eight abortions, and no children when she finally wanted them. She said, "What was I thinking? I wasn't thinking. They told me it would be alright, this is what you do, this is what is done. You can have children later, when the time is right." But then when she wanted to, she wasn't able to have any children anymore. Those were her children, her eight children, and they're lying in the ground, or much more likely in the garbage dump, by her own hand. What can she do with the grief of that? She can sing a song for them. She can make a grave for them. She can name them. She can pray to them and ask their forgiveness and ask their blessing and presence in her life. They can be her angels, because they already were, and what they want most, more than anything, is for Mama to be a child like them, so she can come in from the cold and be loved.
Only God knows the economy we are operating in. I feel like I took part in those deaths, not those eight in particular, but in the great worldwide fear and hatred of Life, Life, that great unbridled, primordial Force, exuberant in its abundance, flowering forth with abandon, erupting, covering everything - everything! - even our ugliness and our pettiness and our selfish desire for all the petty little comforts of our civilization and to be left alone so we can "enjoy" them, even our unlovely despair in the midst of them - everything - with its pretty little flowers. I'm sorry I said No. I'm sorry I was so afraid. I don't think I could have done any better. I was not then the person I am now, not that I'm a spotless lily. I'm just not so wounded. I don't have that bottomless pit I had then, nor that sorrow I had gagged and tied and thrown down into it. I'm shored up. When love goes in, it doesn't always go leaking right on out of me like it did. Not that I wouldn't have been a fit mother. If we had had a baby, it would have worked out. It would have been precious. It would have been wonderful. Who would he or she have been?
It's just that I didn't know any better. I always - always - did the very best I knew to do. God knows I did. Even when I floundered around in waters I was not meant to be in, I didn't swim in there because I meant to do wrong. I just didn't know better. I did the best I could. I think this must be where God's grace comes in. The grace is that when I wake up tomorrow morning, I will see around me, four soft, young faces, smooth, like little fawns. There is no reason, no merit why I should have this blessing, these four Lives, clamoring, tugging, kissing, smothering, covering everything with their sweet little posies.