September 19, 2011

Auntie Lea's Home for Wayward Orphans

I am a big believer in the non-traditional family.

Growing up, I knew some kids who lived with only one parent.  I had an aunt who raised her sons with her longtime girlfriend.  My parents welcomed other children into their home, constantly.

And I didn't have a whole lot of faith in the institution of marriage.  My parents were happily married, extremely well matched, and genuinely in love with each other.  I knew from a very young age that they were not typical.

I was used to my friends going through the divorce of their own parents.
I wasn't surprised by absentee parents, by adopted siblings, by deep dark family secrets.
I saw friends get pregnant and get into bad marriages, or not get married and raise a child on their own.  Or not get married, and live happily with the father of their children for years and years, never "making it official."

I fully expected that I would never get married.

Instead, I pictured a life where I and my best friends would live together in a cabin in the woods.  With our children.  With a veritable rainbow of adopted children.  All of us misfits, oddballs, weirdos.  We wouldn't need much, just some land to work.  Just a little bit of money to keep us going through the winters.  We would farm, we'd keep some goats, we'd collectively home school.  It was my idea of being the kind of grown-up I wanted to be.

That all changed when I met M.  I, quite obviously, got married.  And now we've built a family.  But I haven't let go of part of that dream.

Even when I was a very little kid, I only ever wanted to be two things when I grew up- a teacher and a mommy.  I loved the idea of always being surrounded by children.  Of always caring for children.  Of keeping my heart and my home open to any child that needed me.

My friends used to refer to my apartment as, "Auntie Lea's Home for Wayward Orphans."  I was always putting up homeless teenagers and completely broke art students and musicians.

Things change.  With M's diagnosis, a lot of my priorities changed.  I wasn't the most important person in my future anymore.  Since that day, it has never been about me.  It's been about him, or us, or our family.  And our family is a real, tangible thing.  It's not just an idea.  Not just a theoretical gaggle of children, merrily eating lentils and rice around the table before the whole family plays a game.  It's actual people that I know, that I care for, that won't eat half the food I put in front of them on any given day.

And so I had let go of that dream of my gaggle of children.  For the time being.

Recently, we went to a friend's wedding.  And for some reason or other, I had forgotten that I am a child magnet.  And a photographer snapped a bunch of pictures of me, sitting in the grass, surrounded by a gaggle of little girls.

Each time I look at those pictures, my heart breaks a little bit.  Because that's always how I had pictured myself as an adult.  That's the grown-up I wanted to be.

M is, as ever, stoic and practical.  He keeps me grounded, reminds me that we're in no position to care for three, or four, or five more children.  For now.  That we need to wait until we're stable, until we're ready.

But there is something inside of me that needs to care for children.  To be always kissing boo-boos, and teaching the alphabet, and singing silly songs.  There's something inside of me that doesn't believe there's ever not enough to share, that there's no way to spread the soup a little farther, or squeeze in another bed.  There's part of me that just wants to throw open our doors and say, "Children!  Come in and be loved!"

I believe that love is like the void of space, practically endless.  And each person only has a heart with which to love, a heart that they can refill over and over each time it is emptied.  And there will always be more love, because no matter how many hearts fill themselves and empty themselves, if every person on earth were to spend one day only loving until their heart was empty, refilling it, and loving again, it wouldn't pull the ends of that space one inch closer.  There is always room in my heart to love one more person.  One more friend, one more child, one more memory.

I will never be able to exhaust my ability to love.  Of that, I am nearly certain.  And love is the most important thing that any person, and particularly, any child needs.

I'm holding back... for now.  While M is in school, while I'm in school, while things are so chaotic and stressful.  But once we're through, once we're down to only doing four hundred things at once...


Someday I'm going to open those doors.  Let the lost children inside.  Feed them a nice big meal.  And tuck them into bed with a kiss goodnight.

Someday my home will feel like one big community of people, helping and caring and growing together.

Someday I'll get to watch my children playing together, learning from each other, and becoming more and more shaped by each other than by me.


Many thanks to the friends and family of the Streeters for these pictures.


  1. What a heartfelt, beautiful post! Your love for your husband and children is tangible in your writing. Incredible writing that left me sighing. Someday. Never underestimate the possibilities that exist in that word. It's not too late yet!

  2. Sooooo well said... I loved this post... I am swinging by from Mommying On The Fly... To let you know you are featured as our guest co-host for Tag Back Tuesday tomorrow... Thank you so much for joining our hop and your interest... Hope you get some wonderful traffic tomorrow.. and with such a genuine beautiful blog there is no doubt you will get a bunch of new followers... BTW... absolutely <3ing the pics of your babies...

  3. Wow. I kept telling myself that if I did not get pregnant by my 35th birthday, I would investigate artificial insemination. I just hadn't found anyone with whom I wanted to bring a child into the world. About 6 months prior to that birthday, the little stick had a "plus" sign. Now I am about 2 weeks from my 50th birthday, and our children are 14, 13 and 8. Our daughter (the youngest) is standing beside me at this moment putting green star stickers all over her stomach. My family may not have happened in the way I thought it would, but it happened just the way it was supposed to.

  4. What a great post Lea. I know your dream will come true. :)

  5. What a beautiful post really makes you think. Stopping by form the hop. Thank you for co hosting.

  6. You always get a reaction out of me with your posts, usually a smile. Like life itself you have a way of throwing all in the pot and just shaking it up.

    Something tells me that even if you don't take them into your house, your effect on the children you love is endless.

  7. A heartfelt post! All I ever wanted to be was a wife and a stay at home mommy...unfortunately life had other ideas and I ended up working full time despite having 5 kids...raising them mostly as a single parent! Whatever life gives you, I am truly a believer in making lemonade of it! Enjoy your nieces and nephews, enjoy your friends may end up being the one person they can come to as teenagers!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Vote for me!

Visit Top Mommy Blogs To Vote For Me!