“Aunt Kay, why didn’t you have kids?”

I look at my nephew, his hair bleached from summer sun, his limbs long and sinewy from growth spurts and non-stop play. He is eleven and reaching the outer edge of his wide open face and honest questions. Next year, or the year after that, he will become a virtual stranger for a time, whose aloof hovering, mumbled sarcasm, and slouchy posture will make me want to run away screaming. I don’t want to squander the last bit of eleven I might get. I pause and inhale.

“There are lots of answers to some questions, sweetie,” I say, my mind running down the list of which ones might be nephew-approved.

“Well, tell me one of them.”

“Aiden, you know what it looks like when your mom is knitting and the yarn gets all tangled in a big knot?”


“That’s what the reasons look like. It’s hard to see where one ends and another begins because of all the knots.”

“So you can’t tell me?”

“I will, but it’s not so simple, ok? It’s all tied up.”

He nodded and looked like he was thinking about what I’d said.

The heart of the matter was that we had liked our life as it was and wondered what such a big change would mean. Although we didn’t know this was the bottom line at the time, eventually we realized it was the reason.

“You know it’s hard being a good mom. Think about all the stuff your mom does, like making lunches, washing clothes, cleaning house,  and plain old having fun with you. I figured I would be a better aunt than a mom. Do you know what I mean?”

“Not really.”

“You know how you played pitcher and catcher and short stop before you realized you were better at pitching? It’s like that. We all do our part on the team.

My answer at last seemed adequate and our attention turned to the chocolate chip cookies needing to come out of the oven.

I looked at the back of his neck as he scraped the cookies from the pan. His hair line rose an an angle from the left up to the right side of his neck, just like my brother’s and mine and it made me wonder again at all I was missing.

2 thoughts on “Selfish

  1. This piece really hits home with me. Probably with any woman 40s and up who hasn’t had kids. It’s piercing, and true. I continue to marvel at how you take tiny moments and frame them, expanding them into something that evokes feeling in the reader. Thank you for this one!

    • Thank you for your comments, Sue. I have been thinking about my child-free status, especially since the current Pope said that not having children was selfish. I still feel conflicted about his statement, but it was a good inspiration, at least.

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