Tom and I have pizza with my parents on Saturday night. I sit across from my mom. Tom sits across from my dad. Suddenly, I feel like I could be twelve years old again. Or, maybe I feel like I am a lot older. I can’t really tell.
My parents already had me when they were my age. Does that make sense? I am twenty-eight, and my parents were both twenty-eight when I entered their world in 1985. My dad was a newly minted veterinarian and my mom worked from home, but she always beamed with pride when she told people that her occupation was a stay-at-home mom. She took me to the library several times a week, allowing me to check out Pancakes for Breakfast more times than I care to admit here. My dad worked overnight shifts at least two nights a week so that I could go to college. They drove older cars and did without new things so that they could save money for me and my brother.
Both from immigrant families, my parents work harder than anyone I have ever known. I am grateful. I look at both of my parents. I pick at my slice of pizza and try to fathom how they managed to do it all, how they found happiness in their first few years of marriage with two young children, how they made it work so well. I feel young. I wonder if I can do it as well as they did. I wonder if I can give our children the kind of upbringing they gave me. I feel inadequate. I feel too old to not have kids, but still too young to feel old enough to have them.
I remember our first house in Littleton. I remember playing in the backyard and breaking the sprinkler heads and the smell of chalk on the pavement after it rained. I remember spending sunny days on my grandparents’ patio while my grandfather picked tomatoes in his garden, salting them and eating them a dozen at a time. He would tell me stories about Italy; I would stare at the black and white photo of his hometown, wondering if I would ever get to see it in real life. We’d sit out there for hours, lighting sparklers in broad daylight, even if it wasn’t the Fourth of July. The locusts came in August and we knew it was time to go back to school. I was excited to get hand-me-down clothes from my cousins. The nights got shorter.
We discuss having children: what we will name them and what traits they’ll have. Even though Tom and I have been married for two years, I still find myself mourning the loss of the childhood that was mine, while simultaneously trying to figure out if I am worthy of creating a childhood for my own kids. Can we even afford to have kids? Should we buy a house first? What do I want our children to value, cherish, uphold? What will our legacy be about? Will they come to know their family’s past, their ancestors’ fight to become American? I watch old home videos and notice that my room wasn’t filled with fancy toys or lots of stuff. Honestly, I don’t remember noticing the state of my toy collection or if the decorating scheme in our living room was cohesive. But I vividly remember the way I felt when I spent time with those I love.
Can we afford to have children? Sure. I look at the sacrifices my parents made for me, and I know that I can do it, too. We will find our own way of doing it. We will make it work. Having children won’t involve buying lots of expensive things, and our children might not have brand-new clothing or toys. Maybe our decorating scheme will be more of a mish-mash of hand-me-downs and thrifty finds. But our home, whether owned or rented, will be full of love.
And I feel lucky.