When I was younger and my maternal grandfather was alive, all my family lived “close”. So close, in fact, that there wasn’t a weekend I didn’t spend with a plethora of familiar faces filling my weekends, either at the family house in Detroit, Michigan or the campground we inhabited in Leamington, Ontario, Canada. Between my mother and two aunts there are eight of us cousins, the oldest of which being about twelve years older than me with each succeeding sibling/cousin coming in at about two years apart in age, with me being the second to last youngest.
While I have fond memories of my family growing up – holidays, sitting around the campfire cracking jokes, cooking with older cousins when they played babysitter – I largely felt displaced and misunderstood. The was always an established order I never seemed to fit into and a gap that my mother, aunts, older cousins, and brother couldn’t quite span. I was different and on many ways I felt my variances were viewed as willful personality traits. This, of course, did a number on my self esteem, especially once puberty set in and I had not a clue how to deal with the changes my body and emotions were undergoing. No one really listened, no one really explained the process apart from their frustrations with my “antics”, and I was mostly left to my own devices to figure it all out. By the time someone did think to reach out, I was pretty well set with the estimation that I was a “bad kid” and out was up to me to make sense of my life.
When I became pregnant at the age of fifteen my belief was that this was my opportunity to build the family I never felt I had. A a child of divorce with a father who was relatively absent, I wasn’t necessarily concerned with matter of paternity. All I wanted was the ability to build a family on a foundation of trust, mutual consideration, and unconditional love. Things I felt I had been denied growing up. It didn’t start or that way, of course. I soon found out that a teenager’s view of maternity doesn’t include two a.m. feedings, sickness, bouts of crying that can’t readily be soothed. A teenager’s view of maternity can’t possibly fathom battling resentment caused unfulfilled desires that are, in theory, supposed to die once your child draws its first lung full of oxygen.
It was rough, but I pushed through it all, literally and figuratively, and, looking back, I see I have been blessed with the ideal I strove to create twenty-three years ago. My daughter is a successful nurse’s aid with a supportive husband and three beautiful children of her own. My oldest son is an ambition-filled college student, holding down two jobs in California. My two youngest sons are bright, enterprising, and discerning young men with aspirations to set the world on its ear. No major addictions or law infractions, my E-Quad are the model citizens of my dreams, and most important, they share an unshakable bond and accountability to each other that will last several generations.