Something strange happened when I turned 50 | Column | The Press and Standard

by | September 30, 2017 5:00 pm

Last Updated: September 27, 2017 at 12:19 pm

Something strange happened when I turned 50. I started noticing children everywhere. And by noticing I mean “walking across Costco to look at twins.” These days nothing moves my heart like a child. (Especially freckle-faced little boys. I want to buy them cars and send them to college.)
At my last “real world” job, I interacted with lots of kids. I most enjoyed the little ones and the big ones—teens. The tots are innocent and awed by everything. Teens are neat because they’re figuring out who they are, who to trust and what flip-flops to wear when it’s 25 degrees outside.
It’s the oddest thing: From the age of 12 I knew I didn’t want children. It wasn’t some big, shattering choice. I just knew, the way some people know they’ll never handle snakes at church. (Not that I’m comparing babies to snakes.)
Maybe being the youngest of four in a very small house was a factor. I saw how hard my parents worked to provide for the family and maintain a home. (I could just as easily have decided to never buy a house, but I didn’t. I love real estate.)
Another factor: I was the youngest in our extended family. I was never around babies. Ever. The first time I held a baby I was 19. I gripped him like a country ham. He couldn’t figure out why he was upside down and backwards, but we made it work.
As I got older I dated some men with children. I was mildly interested, in the way one is mildly interested in sushi, or being a contestant on “American Ninja Warrior.” I considered them miniature people who couldn’t rent a car or get a loan.
One beau had a sweet, small six-year-old named Margaux. She once approached me as I read, and requested a glass of water. “You don’t have to ask, sweetie, you can just get it,” I murmured.
There was a polite pause. Then she cleared her throat and said, “I’m three feet tall.” Of course she couldn’t reach the cabinet for a glass, or even the sink faucet. “Live and learn,” I said cheerfully, and we shared some excellent Wrightsville Beach tap water.
Today I’d find out what she wanted to be when she grew up, and ask her about her favorite color, food, book, TV show and movie. Does she have a pet? A best friend? Siblings? Stick shift or automatic?
As I said, kids interest me more now than 30 years ago. I love to see them learn about the world and explore their universe. Sometimes I think, “Maybe I should get one,” which is a rational thought about fresh pineapple, but not a child. Thankfully, I realize this.
One last thing: The woman who never wanted children now aches for a grandchild. How ironic is that?
My beloved stepson, Widdle Jr., has been married for 15 years. They have no children, and are now dealing with my crazy.
Widdle no longer calls his son on speakerphone when I’m around, because when Junior answers I scream, “GIVE ME A BABY!” like Holly Hunter in “Raising Arizona.”
This is hugely weird because no-one has ever pressured me about having kids. From my parents to my ex in-laws to my peers, I’ve never been urged to have children, or asked why I don’t have any. This is extremely kind and respectful. Or… it may just be obvious I shouldn’t procreate.
Oh, well. There’s always Costco.

Julie R. Smith, who just wants to read “**** and Jane” to somebody, can be reached at widdleswife@aol.com.


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