The Uncertainty of Motherhood When You’re the 37-Year-Old Fun Single Aunt
Oscillating between two universes
Every five years or so, when I am home in Houston for the holidays, I declare the need for a nostalgia deep-dive — excavating several large, plastic time capsules that reside in the back of my dad’s sprawling art studio; tangible reminders, poignant remainders of early life.
This year, I FaceTimed my mom so she could join dad and I on this dusty trip down only-child memory lane, and we ooh-ed and aww-ed through the sentimental souvenirs, absorbing the extensive archive of my burgeoning creativity: every non-digitized word, every graphite line I pushed across paper, every article or story I wrote from 1984–2006 — fruitful side effects of having encouraging and inspiring artists as parents. We agreed, as we had many times before, based on the prolific amount of content that spanned countless journals and notebooks, I really had no choice but to become a writer.
But when I closed the literary collection and dusted off the baby box full of heirlooms-in-training, I thought about the choices I had left to make. It’s clear why my parents and I have memory-hoarded the mounds of beginner art and formative writerly projects, but why these tiny relics? The Cabbage Patch dolls, the custom-made dollhouse furniture, the jewelry box, the softest, smallest, sweetest blankets? Where will they go? Who are they for?
My mom was diligent about making sure we didn’t keep literally everything I ever touched, and over the years, handed down clothes and toys and practical pieces to friends with young ones. And so, as I held up the exquisite dollhouse living-room set, she asked, earnestly, “Why don’t you pass those on to your friends’ kids? Or your cousins’ kids?”
I looked beyond the tiny furniture at the dolls and hand-painted Noah’s Ark animals, who stared up at me like they wanted to know why, too; feeling like this inanimate infantry was moments away from coming to life and interrogating me about my choices — my own twisted, thirtysomething Toy Story.
“Not yet,” I replied, putting everything back one by one, feeling the hesitation and heaviness and hope that hung in those two words, not knowing if I’d take them out in this lifetime to pass…