I often worry about the fact that Harry is an only child. This is primarily because I like to worry about things that I can’t control. But also because, as the oldest of three, I don’t know what it’s like to be an only. What will he come to think about not having siblings? Will he be outwardly lonely? Quietly relieved? Completely ambivalent? More specifically, will he go through life collecting a select group of friends as honorary brothers and sisters? Or will he move to a cabin in Montana to write his manifesto? These are the things I don’t know yet. So, I really enjoy worrying their multi-million possibilities and ramifications. It’s my superpower.
I may have mentioned that I have been pregnant several times. That’s true. I’ve tried for years to give Harry a brother or sister, and that’s never worked out; so, yeah, it seems like it’s just not in the cards. It makes me sad, extremely sad, sometimes. And then other days, I just put my on lip gloss and say, ‘well, he’ll always be the kid who gets to bring a friend on vacation.’
Or perhaps the vacation will be to go to the friends.
A few weeks ago, Harry and I boarded a plane to go visit a houseful of kids in Denver. Specifically, Design Mom’s kids. Gabrielle and Laurie and I needed to get together to work on some Kirtsy things, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to throw my only child into a mix of six to see who survived. (Kinda like the Hunger Games, but with less Hungerdeath and more iPhone Games.)
I waited until the day before to tell him, because Harry is a social creature, and if I tell him we’re going to go do anything involving people, he will ask me every 2 and a half minutes when we’re leaving. So right before we boarded the plane, I gave him the rundown on who was whom (Ralph is the oldest and the boss, he’s 13; Maude is probably really the boss, she’s 11; then Olive, she’s super fun at 9; Oscar, he’s 5, just like Harry (whoohoo!); Betty is wonderful and 4; and baby June is brand new, coming in at 0.) Harry was amazed in advance by all these brothers and sisters. He asked questions about what they liked to do, where they slept, what toys they had, what Mario characters they wanted to be. I told him I didn’t know, but we’d find out soon.
As circumstance would have it, even though Gabrielle and I have been working together for almost four years, I’d never met the kids. And I too was a little curious to see how six worked. Like Harry, but from a parent’s perspective, I’ve only known our little house of one. And I was interested to experience how it all happened on any given day, you know, functionally, systematically, psychologically.
We walked into the door and Ben and all six kids ran up to greet us (for the record, June did not run). Harry and Oscar locked eyes, and approximately 90 seconds later, they scurried up the stairs and we never saw them again. The end.
Okay, maybe we saw them again, but you get the general idea. Harry just sorta fell in line as the honorary #7 (well, #5 in order, for the weekend). At one point, I was sitting in the living room and Harry ran by wearing a red dragon costume and bearing a sword. Another moment, he was full-on playing a trombone. And one late night, the grownups were up talking after the kids were asleep, when we heard a variety of shoes (and boots!) being thrown down from the balcony to the dining room below. Just, you know, because that’s fun.
Basically, the best way I can describe spending time in the Blair household: It was like an explosion of energy. Very, very good energy. For 48 hours, the giggles rarely stopped. And I’m mainly just talking about the ones from me and Gabby and Laurie. Honestly, it was a treat. And it was reeeeaaally good for both Harry and I.
For me, it was a little bit deeper. For starters, being around Laurie and Gabrielle is always like a spa weekend for the soul. I love them so much, I’m so glad I get to work with them, and I’m rarely more at ease than I am around true friends.
Secondly, it was a good reminder that families, and the feelings of family, can be created in a lot of ways.
Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and my mom and dad always have 50-75 people over for the day. Of those, I’m barely related to half of them. (For example, sometime around 1986, a kid came home with my brother after 7th-grade football practice, and he never left. But that’s another story entirely.) My point is, I remembered, when it comes down to all of this, I really just need to Chill It way out. I need to stop worrying about what family Harry doesn’t have and to be mindful and open to what life brings us. Without our constructs. And sometimes even without our awareness.
Oh, but I want to be aware. I want to remember that family is often an unexpected gift. An oddball mix. An action verb. And most importantly, I want to recognize that when I feel it. My best hope is that I can teach Harry to do the same.
I like to call this last photo “Five signs of peace and a sword”