What does it mean to parent?
Can part of you exist when you no longer do?
These things rolled around in my head after a brief conversation I had with someone attending a presentation. We were just chatting after I'd signed a copy of my new book. She said, 'It's a pity that you were gay, you should have been a parent, it's sad that you have no children, nothing, to send into the future.' Believe me, I've worked very hard to get that statement absolutely right. It echoed in my mind and 'ping-ed' around in my heart for a while afterwards. She left, my book in hand, shaking her head sadly.
I guess I don't think of children in the way that she does. I don't think of 'my blood' or 'my genes' being sent into the future. It makes, of children, a commodity, things that exist for your purpose, not theirs. I don't see kids as a kind of odd photocopy of parents.
But I do wonder about the idea of leaving a mark. Leaving something behind. I hope I do. I hope that I am carried into the future in the hearts of those who love me. I hope I spend time with my friends, still, when they have tea, smell vanilla or hear that Wendy Matthews song. I hope I exist in moments when my hand is needed to hold, my voice is needed to comfort, my perspective is need in crisis. I hope, then, that I can call from the past into the present and be heard, and felt and known.
The other day I sat in a presentation by someone and listened to them present an idea that I had originated, that I had taught ... I knew this idea was now theirs, I knew that it informed their ideas ... and I knew that the idea had had it's birth in my mind, in my teaching, in my writing.
The other day I read someone who generously and precisely quoted my work and my words. They took what I had done and gave it a spin, made it fresh, made it new. It was exciting to see a glimmer of an idea become something bright in the eyes of another. It was gratifying.
The other day I saw someone reading one of my books during a lunch break. He was sitting by himself quietly eating a sandwich and turning pages. He didn't see me watch him, he didn't see me smile when I saw him nod his head, agreeing with something in the book. He didn't know what that slight nod meant to me.
The other day I heard Ruby say something that I had said, she said it with confidence as if she knew that she could trust the source, that she could trust me in the past with what she said in the present and what she will know in the future.
The other day I saw a child with a disability leave her school, get on her bus, and travel home. A little thing. I knew, really knew, then that there was once a little girl who was the first, who walked into the first hallway and integrated the first school. I know that she took steps that others now follow. She may not have had a child, I don't know, but certainly I know she parented. Didn't she? I think so.
I don't have children.
My blood will not course in the veins of another.
But my ideas may.
And, I guess, that's got to be good enough for me.