During Pesach, I saw my aunt for the first time in almost four years. There's no reason why we haven't seen each other--simply distance and time. But, since it had been four years, it meant that she also had never met the ChickieNob and Wolvog. The last time she saw me, the twins were in my belly and I was two weeks away from their early arrival.
It was very emotional to step into her house and hug her. I love her very much, but I didn't realize how much I missed her until we were face-to-face. It is very easy to get caught up in life and keep putting off visits and not realizing how much someone means to you. Sometimes it takes that face-to-face contact to remember.
Lori had a post a while back about her daughter spending the day with Crystal, the woman who gave birth to her. She referred to that time spent together as returning to the well. And that perfectly describes how I felt being in the house. It was as if I was returning to a source, my roots, and was drawing something in; something I didn't even know was necessary or missing from my life until I was dragging up that bucket and drinking in. My aunt has known me my entire life.
The reason it has taken me so long to unpack this is because what happened there was totally out of character for me. I am extremely sensitive to people pointing out the physical traits that the four of us share. It twists something in my chest when people refer to the ChickieNob as Mini-Mel. We do look alike. We have so many of the same mannerisms. I do love that she looks like me and that she looks like herself. And the Wolvog looks like a Mini-Josh. I can physically pick the twins apart and tie each trait back to a family member.
But when I turn it outward and include other people in this aspect of life, I get upset by the same thing that I love because I don't know how this third child will enter our world and I have this strong, intuitive feeling that he/she won't be genetically related. I am so often wrong that it feels silly to think about this until it is happening, but I am acutely sensitive to the idea that this third child will not be a miniature version of us. And how that child will feel seeing that physical connection between the four of us. And beyond that, it is a global sensitivity to the knowledge that family building can take many paths and a belief that all people should be examined on their own terms and not in comparison to others. You simply don't know how people feel about those connections.
When people bring it up, I usually just scrunch up my nose as politely as possible and say something like, "we don't really look at things like that. The ChickieNob is simply beautiful on her own terms." And then most of the time, people move along and comment on the beauty in her individual traits (or, the same with the Wolvog). We know a few people who will never let it drop, but that is something we'll cross when we need to cross it.
But it was like someone had flipped this switch at my aunt's house. I couldn't stop talking about how the ChickieNob looks like my cousin as well as my uncle who died when I was little. I was the one bringing it up, I was the one continuously pointing out this expression or that hand movement and tying it back to the two of them. My aunt couldn't stop marveling at the connection and I felt so proud knowing that I was a part of that too. And it made me feel terrible inside.
The thing is, I miss my uncle very much. Perhaps I didn't realize how much I missed him or how long I linger over his picture in the living room at my parent's house or how I associate him with certain toys. My mother gave the kids a toy he had given me and I ended up taking it away from them, too scared that they weren't going to play with it gently enough. That they'd break one of the few tangible things I have. Toys are just...toys. But I have so few things, so few pictures, so few clear memories even by this point.
I think the oral diarrhea was about trying to form new memories, new connections since the old ones are getting so hazy with time. And I realized that I do the same thing for Josh's grandmother. Whenever I see a trait of her husband repeated in the Wolvog, I call her and sigh, "it's just like your husband." Because I know she misses him and she loves that we named our son after her husband. And in finding these traits, it is like bringing someone back a little bit.
It's a natural desire to look for these similarities, to wish that you could bring someone back. But I worry about doing it especially not knowing what the future holds. Because I know that my strongest relationships and connections break down the line in a 50/50 split with some genetically related and some not. The strength of those relationships have nothing to do with blood or genes. Genetics cannot create intimacy. It can only give you games to play
around the breakfast table when you're drinking your coffee and missing someone who is no longer there.
That same night, we went to a seder and a cousin marveled at my daughter, calling her--as most do--Mini-Mel. She asked me if Josh and I just sat back watching the children play and thought they looked like replicas of ourselves. Regardless of what I had done just a few hours earlier, I arched my eyebrows and gave her my most droll, conversation-halting look. "Genetics aren't something Josh and I focus on with the kids; it just isn't important to us."
And it made me feel like such a liar.