It’s late, and by the time I have internet access and post this tomorrow, we’ll have slept one night in Denmark. Because this was a travel day and I was the co-pilot/navigator (a job no one has EVER voluntarily requested I take on), I don’t have a single photo to share today, save one shot from the Dublin Airport that says, “Dublin’s Transport Links. Racism Divides. There’s no room on board for racism.” I stopped to take a photo of that because I wish my home country could implement the same zero tolerance policy – and enforce it. Other than that, though the scenery was beautiful and the flight into Denmark breathtaking, I didn’t even take the camera out of its case. But between the traffic and the waiting time in the airport queues, I had a little time to consider something that’s been on my mind this last week.
Someone asked me if I had located my relatives yet in Ireland, and while perhaps I should be guilty that it wasn’t that important to me on this trip, the question has been in the back of my mind. Why isn’t it something that is so critical to me, and should I feel guilty that I’m not digging through yellowed pages of baptismal certificates and rubbing the etchings off long-forgotten gravestones? And it’s a question I’m not sure I can answer, but as it happens, something else in the news this week has made me consider the same question in a different way.
In Great Britain, the government, which seems to be as nearly immobile and partisan as ours, has narrowed its choice for a new Prime Minister down to two women. In addition to making way too much of an issue out of their gender (after all, this is the same country where Margaret Thatcher kicked ass and took names way before the term ‘glass ceiling’ was even a buzzy and trendy one), the news was ablaze with the comments of one this weekend. Andrea Leadsom, who has been accused of padding her resume to make herself look more qualified for the top job navigating Britain through its Brexit from the European Union, made comments over the weekend that she was better suited to the job as Prime Minister because she has children and thus, has a vested interest in the future of the country. Her opponent, Theresa May, has already shared publicly that she is unable to have children.
When I read the reports and heard them on the news (you would have to have been in a cave to not hear them), I admit I was a bit stung, too. As someone who can’t have children, it isn’t just Mother’s Day that makes me feel like a bit of a loser. There is something about not having children that tends to make you feel like you’re skipping out on one of the basic reasons for living – procreation and your part in the continuation of the species. I do admit that sometimes I feel like I’m not in a position to help make decisions when it comes to education or children’s services because I don’t have children of my own. Does not having children make me less of a value to society or less worthy of feeling I have an investment in the future?
As you can imagine, Andrea Leadsom has spent the weekend first denying she had ever uttered such a horrible and ugly statement, then spinning it, then finally apologizing for it while still swearing she was misquoted utterly and completely. Her opponent, perhaps realizing what a boon this was to her own campaign, was oddly silent.
All of this talk, along with the questions about whether or not I was spending my vacation digging up the roots of my family tree, made me think about family. Maybe being childless has altered my definition of family a bit, and maybe family is about more than sharing DNA and the same eye color or forehead size. I was thinking about that today as Dan and I drove across all of Ireland, from the West Coast to the East Coast, listening to the news and shuffling through the airport filled with families on holiday. I thought about it as we boarded the plane and again when our red jet glided over shelves of clouds and the land below was nothing but a patchwork quilt of fields and farmhouses and families going about their Monday business as we eavesdropped on them from our cloak of invisibility thousands of feet above.
When we arrived in Copenhagen, we were nearly at the car rental kiosk when a little lightning bolt of energy torpedoed for us and then quickly turned around to run back to hug her daddy’s legs, repeating this dance a few times as we greeted Dan’s son, Sasha, who’d traveled across his own country to welcome us to Denmark. It took a little while for Zara, who is three, to become comfortable with us and look at me with open eyes instead of peeking up through crazy-long lashes. By the time we got back to Odense, where we’re staying with Sasha, Tamara, little Zara and nine month-old Anja, Zara was helping me look through my suitcase for one more bar of hidden homemade soap just for her, tasting the raspberry jam I’d brought, and crying because it was way past bedtime and she had to go to sleep even though she said she wasn’t a bit tired.
Now, before I close my eyes for the night and try to make the shift between Ireland and Denmark and another new adventure that lies ahead of us, I can’t help but think again about what makes family. While it’s true that I don’t have children of my own and there will likely never be anyone to plant flowers at my grave or look up my birth certificate to fill in the blanks in their own lineage, I can’t help but believe that there’s more to that than family. Dan is my family, and because I have chosen to love him, my family tree has grown and become, though a bit twisted and sometimes gnarly, a strong and real testament to the life we share together. And though looking up my family lineage and finding the parish paperwork in Ireland that traces my path backwards to a specific county or village wasn’t part of my journey, seeing a three year-old barreling towards me at full-speed and shrieking because she wanted to spend more time with me than in the innocent and mighty dreams of youth was all I really need to experience to realize that I do indeed have family, history, and maybe if I’m lucky, a little bit of a legacy, too.