Did I ever tell you I have seven kids? Yup that’s right…7. In fact not only do I have seven kids, I AM the seventh of seven. I know that’s only supposed to count if your a guy, but I say it counts even with my ovaries. Supposedly seventh of seven children have “special secret powers”, like heightened sense of intuition. Maybe I should have foreseen what life with 7 of my own would be like?and before you ask, no I did not give birth to them all. I am adopted and so is my husband, so for us, birth does not preclude parenthood. Our story is that we were both playing music in church (where we met), and his first wife had lung cancer. She died the day after her 40th birthday when their 4 kids were 3,5,9 and 13. They were separated when she died, which is why all the resentement existed up until our ghostly encounters a few weeks ago. At the time, I was newly divorced and trying to raise three little kids (same ages as the first three on his list) and had bought my own house by gardening and cleaning dog shit in old people’s yards. Those were the days.
About two months after his first wife had died, I was finally invited over to their house. I walked in on quite a scene. John crying over a basket of socks, two hairy little boys playing Super Mario and the girls hiding in their room. Their mother didn’t like me very much and had warned them about keeping me away from the kids (she was friends with my ex…he had misinformed her as to my personal history…ahem), so the girls were very confused. We went sledding with all the kids that day. My son Jordan (now 18) recalls fondly when Bryan (also now 18 :)) pushed him unceremoniously down “monster hill” and he flew almost into the parking area, grinning a 6-year-old toothless smile. Nick and Sara were throwing themselves headfirst down the hill within minutes. Meagan and Andrea hopped on the same sled without needing an introduction. It was all working out JUST FINE…except for Amanda, our eldest who at 14 was angry and terrified , her mother had not only died, but as happens for eldest kids, especially when mom is sick, she had been given the brunt of the responsibility of caring for her siblings and was almost primordially protective. She stood glaring at me from atop the snowy mountain, a darkness in her eyes that shouldnt exist in kid’s eyes…but there it was. I stood beside her and said
“You know, you don’t have to like me or be nice or anything”, and I smiled and let her be.
Later after sledding, we let Andrea (9 years old) pick the movie. None of us have ever forgotten “Sugar and Spice”, the worst movie in the history of film; an endearing story celebrating teen pregnancy..I almost had an aneurism. We still make fun of Andrea and never ask her to pick the movie when we all go out. But that day, it just so happened the way everyone fit into the movie row that I would end up sitting beside Amanda the eldest. I had a huge bag of skittles I had bought at the concession stands which I could see she kept eyeing.
“Want some?”, I asked trying to smile, but I was just as nervous as she was.
“I hate the banana ones”, she said still looking at her lap.
“They’re my favourite!”, I smiled.
I began taking all the banana skittles out of the bag and giving her the non-banana little sweet sour chewy candy. I saw her smile watching me trying to find all the ones she didn’twant. I looked up and saw her eyes. The darkness had lifted and she smiled a little watching me trying to pick out all the ones she didn’t want. I think it had been a long time since anyone had picked out her food for her and for a second she looked like a kid again. I smiled at her and just handed her the bag. We shared through movie and walked out friends. Since then we have always said skittles helped save or family.
When I was five years old sitting under the maple tree in my front yard playing “pretend farm”, my favourite game, my mother asked me what i wanted when I grew up. I told her I wanted seven kids, a farm and lots and lots of animals. welcome to my life.
Lately I have been lonely. My life has been pretty active raising seven kids over all these years, but all of a sudden, like a bubble popping, they all grew up and poof! Gone. Andrea moved out with her boyfriend. Amanda gave us our first grandchild and is currently working on baking number 2. Meagan was accepted to university in fine arts. Nick got a scooter so with the melt I won`t see him until October I figure. Jordan is beginning work in town and Sara lives with her dad for school cause it`s closer than the farm. My big old farm-house is becoming too quiet for my taste.
Happily this is Easter weekend. I feel the noise around the corner.
Back in the day, we would cover the house in eggs, sneak chocolates under their beds at 1:00 in the morning so they would wake up all excited and eat chocolate for breakfast. Mmmm. I had a couple who were terrified of the Easter Bunny. I don’t blame them. Giant bunny watching me sleep wouldn’t bring me any comfort either. Nicky would ask 8 thousand questions.
“When is the bunny coming, what does he look like, is he bigger than a regular bunny, does he stay a long time, does he have big teeth?”
These questions have morphed into
“Can I sleep at my friend’s house? Can my friend sleep over here? What’s for dinner? Can I have a lift to the gym? How long will dinner last? I have plans.”
Little messy faces and me complaining about chocolate forgotten on the couch melting deeply into the fabric (I can see the spots as I sit here writing). I miss the days of messy faces and strung out hyperactive preteens. I miss the noise.
Tomorrow my house will be different. It will be renewed with the sense of Spring, filled with my kids and their kids and noise and chocolate and probably sounds of me complaining about leaving chocolate on the couch. We will do an egg hunt and eat a ham which is boiled in beer all day until the meat falls off the bone. My kids will go straight to their rooms to look for their chocolate which we will still put under their beds.
I was talking with my Brazillian friend Kayoko who asked me what Easter was here as in Brazil her family was not Christian and although they celebrated a type of Easter in Brazil, she had never learned what the biblical reference to Easter was. I tried explaining that our traditions were actually a mix of Christian belief (the egg by the way, comes from when Mary Magdalene went to see Pope Leo after she had witnessed Jesus’s resurrection. She brought an egg as a symbol of ressurection and life). Christian lore says that the Church integrated some pagan ritual like bunnies (a symbol for fertility) and chocolate (only popular since about the 193os and actually something we can thank Germany for) so that all the different relgious traiditions could fall into Christianity. The crucifixion is an important part of this weekend, but not because it caused death – because it confirmed LIFE. For our family, the resurrection is a celebration of life after life. It confirms that someone exists beyond the physicality of the body. This is an important lesson for children who have buried a mother. Easter is MAGIC made by God.
This Easter, I will Thank God for all of my dreams which have come true, for my husband and for my seven beautiful children. I will feed them and be in my mommy-glory. Later at night I may even say a quiet prayer of protection for my kids. Then for a time I will be grateful for the quiet.