Other People's Children


I never meant to have an only child.

You know how the world is supposed to be divided into dog people and cat people? I'm very fond of some particular dogs and cats, but I don't melt at the sight of either kind. I do, however, instinctively make squeaky noises and ridiculous faces at any small child I encounter. I have comforted complete strangers' children to sleep on international flights. I always assumed that I would have at least two children, close together in age, and maybe even three or four.

But that's not what happened.

I spent years grieving the loss of that dream. I'm aware that I could still have an entire second family ... via remarriage, adoption or even natural means (eek!). And if that happens, I will laugh as hard as anyone else about how unexpected life can be. But that's not my dream any more.

I've spent the last 13 years getting creative about new ways my life could be. (If there's one thing I'm really good at, after all, it's making the most of what I've got.) As David gets older and ready to leave the house, I'm almost overwhelmed by the scope of the possibilities I can imagine. But today, as I celebrate my 13th annual Thanksgiving Afternoon of Peace, Quiet, and Buffy while my family watches football and David eats a second feast with his dad's family, I'm pausing and realizing that one of the things I am the very most thankful for is the opportunity to be a part of the lives of other people's children.

From my goddaughter, Margaret, whom I carried in my arms around the church at her baptism, and who still demands a 'Spin-a-tronic' every time I see her (the name's pretty self-explanatory, really), reminds me on a regular basis that I promised her that if I ever cut my hair short again I will dye it dark-green-with-light-green-stripes like a dinosaur, and looks forward all year to our annual Godmother/ Goddaughter birthday extravaganza ...

mt (showing off her new mittens)

... to my bookworm of a niece, Audrey, and sweet bumblepuppy of a nephew, Seth ...

audrey

... to David's best friend Will, who is enough like family at this point that I yell at him just as freely as at David ...

will

... to my godson, Aidan, and his sister Elisabeth, who live in London but stay with us when they're in the States, and vice versa ...

Aidan and Elisabeth

..to the entire horde that turned my backyard into a store this summer that sold 'plants' and 'things to repair your house with' and 'weapons' for discount prices ...

children

... to the other children who don't hold still long enough for me to photograph them (cough, Seth and Aidan) but have worn the sweaters I knit them, put up with my nibbling their tummies and making silly faces at them, and know that while there might not be a lot of food at my house, there's always plenty to do ...

I love you guys.

Merrppy Christmagiving, indeed!

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Written by Christina Van Dyke
the academic world
philosophy professor at a liberal arts college, writing about medieval views on the afterlife, gendered eating, and the perils of on-line dating.

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