Some women don’t have a biological clock. They never hear the ticking that says, “Hurry up, you’re running out of time.”
In the mid-1950s, getting married was the only goal for most of my high school friends and especially the women. It was never my goal – not then and not later. During those years when my classmates were going to wedding and baby showers, and drooling over the latest movie magazine and listening to soap operas, I was planning my escape from what I saw as a boring, uneventful future. I wanted my own life, and after years of babysitting, I really didn’t care if I never had to change another diaper. According to the 1955 high school yearbook, my goal at 17 was to meet Tony Curtis!
I spent the next dozen years living and working in Portland, Boston and New York. Never did the idea of marriage and my own little family cross my mind. I indulged myself in good jobs, lots of friends and many hours listening to jazz and visiting art museums.
Visits home were spent explaining to my friends (some on their second or third husband) why I hadn’t “settled down” yet – of course, settling down was not a solo act. My mother was always good with advice – she’d tell me not to let it bother me, that they were probably jealous of my freedom.
Sometime in the mid-1960s, after moving to Manhattan, I met a man who also liked museums and reading and was quite interesting. After a few months, we left New York for South Dakota, where we lived with his family near the Rosebud Reservation, his birthplace. After he got his draft notice for the Army (this was during the Vietnam War) and left for basic training, I stayed with his family and got a job. It never occurred to me that we should get married, and with 10 children in the house already, becoming a mother was still the last thing on my mind.
His time in the Army was spent in the states, and we lived in Pennsylvania and Illinois for those two-plus years. (At the strong suggestion of his commanding officer, we did get married during lunch hour one day.)
After his discharge, we returned to South Dakota when, for the first time since I was 17, I did not have a job – I had all that spare time and the closest house was 30 miles away. When a state social worker asked me if I’d “temporarily” take care of a soon-to-be-born infant who would be “up for adoption,” I agreed. The baby’s mom was my husband’s cousin, who was unable to care for a baby. I figured this would be something I could do, probably for a few weeks was what I’d been told.
Two days after the baby boy was born that November 1968 weekend, we brought him home from the hospital and he slept warmly in a big cardboard box. Immediately, I called my mother and said, “Guess what I’ve got?” I could almost hear her sigh of relief from 2,500 miles away. Finally, I was settled down – or so it seemed.
A few days later, in the middle of a South Dakota blizzard, UPS delivered a big shipment from Maine – hand-made cradle, folding playpen, crib and two bushels of baby clothes. My mom had also tucked in some cherished Christmas tree ornaments.
My son – now 43 – and I put them on our Maine Christmas tree every year.