I've always been a mama

My three siblings and three cousins. The youngest wasn't born yet. she was born when i was 11.

My three siblings and three cousins. The youngest wasn't born yet. she was born when i was 11.

If I'm going to continue telling my story, especially this next chapter of my life, I have to provide some context. 

I have no memory of being a kid without having another kid to care for.

When we moved from Seattle's hip Ravenna neighborhood to Redmond, Washington, I was five years old and my sister was around one years old. Big rosy cheeks and always smiling. 

My four cousins lived across the street in our new Redmond house. I lived in that house for eight years. 

In this photo, it's me, my brother Andy and Rick in the top row and then Tony (cuz), Alex (cuz), Laura (sister), and Danny (cuz). My youngest cousin, Sonya wasn't born yet and Alex was a baby so I must have been around 9 or 10 years old. 

I knew how to pin a cloth diaper without poking a squirming baby by the time I was six? Maybe seven years old?

Here's the eight kids. we grew up like siblings.

Here's the eight kids. we grew up like siblings.

I was that kind of kid that liked being responsible. I probably did too much.

I had three jobs by the time I was 10 years old: mowing the lawn even though it gave me allergies, subbing for my brother's paper route, and my real money-maker: babysitting. I started off at $1.50 per hour. I was like "wait, I can get paid to do this? Awesome."

By the time I was a teenager, I always a wad of twenties in the corner of my right dresser drawer. My parents would try to give me spending money and I'd shrug and pull out the wad. I loved making money. Not for the reasons that most people would think with our money-obsessed culture. I like what money represented. Freedom.

By the time I'm in my late twenties, I'd been in and out of serious relationships since I was a teenager. I'd helped raise six kids. I started working as a secretary in a law firm when I was only 17 years old. Those paralegals introduced me to the ways of the working woman. 

I love exploring other worlds. I find it so odd that people are struggling so badly right now with connecting people who are different. That's literally my favorite thing to do in the whole world: talk to people that were raised different, or think different, or pray different.

It's so fascinating to hear about their customs, what they like to eat, why they adopt a certain way of dressing, what they name their kids.

Wait, how in the hell did I go from a photo from my childhood to this?

There is a way to tie this all together.

The need to explore and see the world and meet interesting people has always been stronger than the desire to settle down and have a family.

That doesn't mean that I didn't think I *would* settle down with a family. 

I had so many conflicting feelings that I was never honest with myself about. I felt like our culture, especially my Jewish Spanish roots, insisted that I become a wife and mother - otherwise there was something wrong with me. Or, I must be missing something.

I really did feel that way deep down! 

It didn't help that men would often react with disbelief or suspicion when I shared my unique views. 

And this is what drives me bananas: is it really THAT hard to believe that some women would want a different lifestyle than the nuclear family? I know people get it now. 

But when I was in my late twenties in the late 1990s, it still felt shameful.

Instead of letting anything develop into something sweet by my late twenties, I would sabotage. Sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. 

It wasn't cool. I'm not proud of it. I pride myself on being an honest, forthright person. I was a emotionally clueless for so long. I messed a lot of shit up. It's hard to face. But face it, I must.

Anyway, before I share my Man Eating Years, I needed to share the perspective of a little girl who didn't want Option A and had no template for Option B. 

So I made one up. Some of it was off the rails. Some of it was fucking rockstar. And a lot of it is mortifying, pathetic and sad.

But that's my life. I promised you the ugly bits along with the pretty ones.

I'm just getting started.

Much love,

PHOTO #12. This post is part of a series celebrating my life before I lost four organs to three cancers in 2014. It is an “online memorial” honoring the person I was, in the hopes that I can make peace with the disabled person I’ve become. Every day for 30 days until my birthday, I will challenge myself to write a post inspired by the photo I’m sharing. I will not plan the topic or write ahead of time. I will merely look at the photo and write whatever it inspires. Thanks for reading! #julesfor30 #happyrebirth