Growing up outside Philadelphia, I was always fascinated with the Amish (bear with me, I promise this is going somewhere).
I loved history, especially colonial American history, and being Amish seemed to me like the closest one could get to living in the past. In the summer, I would sit on the back stoop, looking out over our backyard and the creek and acres of woods behind it, shucking corn from one of the local farms for my mother, and I would daydream about being an "oldtimey" girl, a farmer's daughter during the Revolution, or an Amish girl today, helping to prepare dinner and thinking about the sheep she had to shear and the wool she had to card and the herbs she had to collect.
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This evening, I took our puppy Bella to the park around the block for her late afternoon walk. The setting sun lit up the sides of buildings with a summery, buttery glow. The trees were budding green or blooming white. The babies and their mommies and daddies (and some of the big kids too) were climbing all over the jungle gyms and swings, playing catch on the ball fields, lounging on the benches. Summer is on the way, and the entire neighborhood is ready to celebrate.
As Bella sniffed her way to the perfect pee-spot, I thought about the months to come: the amateur Shakespeare productions, abridged and pitched to children, performed on a makeshift stage; the family film festivals projected on a screen on the back of the little colonial house in the park's center. I had a vision: four months from now, late-July heat heavy in the air, a screening of Meet Me In St Louis or The Wizard of Oz with Judy Garland's face projected two-stories high, and Lawyer Guy and I pushing a pram between lounging families on picnic blankets, the nebulous, genderless baby blob that is our perpetually 7-weeks gestation m&m sleeping under his or her green and silver canopy.
What could have been.
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Some people start trying to conceive with a tentative we'll-just-see-what-happens toe dipped in the water. Some of them get their we-never-knew-it-would-happen-so-fast BFPs and are borne along a stream of ultrasounds, hormones, and expanding waistlines until the baby arrives: no time to think, to consider, to get scared. Suddenly, a baby, two parents, a family created, and life readjusts and they readjust with it.
Some of them face difficulties they didn't expect or lose the pregnancies that came so easily, and the doubts that might have surrounded their ceremonial tossing of the condom box disappear. "I am ready," they realize. "I do want this. Whatever I thought in the past was wrong. I have changed."
But I was ready before we started trying. For years I waited, ready. I had no doubts, no questions.
With each month that passes, my future parenthood seems to recede in the distance, to become less rather than more possible, less actual, more fantastic. Me pushing a pram seems like a daydream rather than a prophesy, so easily imagined, so impossible to achieve.
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I still love history, and it's still history of the domestic and literary (rather than intellectual, national, or military) variety. I tour historic homes, old forts, recreated settlements. The Brooklyn Museum has a series of eighteenth-century rooms: recreated farmhouse interiors with immaculately laid wood tables and delicately painted wall hangings and period-appropriate china and cherry four-poster beds all behind a plexiglass barrier.
I can look at them for hours, projecting myself into the impossible past of my imagination, envisioning my alternate eighteenth-century life and the feel of the pewter ewer or the cast iron toasting stick or the brass warming pan.
But I can never get past the glass.
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