Life in the Sandwich Archives
- Cassie Premo Steele
Having housemates reminds me of the times that we’ve opened our home in the past — various friends, a few relatives (niece and cousin), and once an entire extended family from Nicaragua who stayed during the time when our children were the smallest. It reminds me that we seem to thrive when we open our doors like this, and the more the better. We are all at our best when we’re mingling with others.
So here it is. She’s going to have a place called “home” thousands of miles from where her family lives.
To build a set of traditions can be a joyful thing, but to dismantle them can be heartbreaking. And yet some shifting and evolving of tradition is necessary as children grow up, and families change.
It’s been an amazing journey, this learning to live without our newly adult daughter who just voted in her first election, two thousand miles away.
I don’t want to be pregnant again. I don’t want any more babies, or toddlers, or preschoolers, or even young school aged children. My dream was to adopt teenagers. Yes, with an “s” at the end. More than one. A sibling set.
I dreaded this last month, felt that our connection would just snap irrevocably, and she would drift away into her life like a bear cub on an ice floe.
I could hear the pages turning and then his inhalation: “Here….” Slowly, he read the words of Martin Luther King, one of his more obscure sermons. His voice cracked open a little bit and my heart fell right into the crack. I imagined Reverend King sitting at his desk, penning these words in the lonely darkness of one night, never imagining that decades later, a man would be reading them to his new girlfriend, and that in this way the girl would fall in love.
The rub is, of course, that you can read all you want, but nothing fully prepares you. You don’t know what it’s really like to parent, until that baby is there 24/7, and you’re bleary with sleep deprivation and heart-exploding love. You don’t know what it’s like to have a parent die or to have the roles suddenly reversed so that you are taking care of the other parent as surely as he or she took care of you.
She used to be at the center of our family, running things, shopping, driving around, hosting large holiday parties with dozens of relatives. Those days are now the Ghost of Christmas Past. The Christmas dinners with all of my cousins. The New Year’s Day open house parties with all the neighbors, when my father would break open a bottle of Scotch with Mr. Kiesselbach from next door…
My fingers hover over the “Find out more” button….
I don’t know what lies ahead. I don’t know if we’ll ever have more than two daughters, or if we’ll live anywhere beside this house, or if I’ll find new work in a new place clear across the country. After many years of following my children’s predictable stages with their prescribed parameters for me, it’s unsettling to feel so open-ended.
And then it was over. I didn’t cry like I thought I might, but when the last girl went home and the helium-filled balloons started drooping, I sighed too. Seventeen years of birthday-party planning. Done.