Men ducked in and out of the picture. Some stayed longer than others, but if they didn’t move on, I did. Desire for a long term relationship was not absent, but when opportunity presented itself my door seemed to close. I liked coming and going as I pleased. I liked the safety inherent in not offering more than I was willing to have taken away. I liked the power of being the party of lesser interest. But though I was rarely alone when I didn’t choose to be, loneliness stalked me. Frequent meet ups with friends to share activities, food, and conversation were always enjoyable, but the loneliness even wore through the good times.
I met an older divorced man with adopted interracial children. He was persistent in his pursuit despite my persistent nos. I finally agreed to meet him for dinner, and became curious. Curious about his more rural lifestyle, his different views on the world, and especially curious about his children. The first visit to his home was startling, yet did not dissuade my interest. Chickens met my car, children ran around the yard comprised mostly of dirt, and he greeted me with a nervous smile. We entered his relatively modern version of a middle class house, followed by curious eyes and snickers. I met the kids – ranging in age from five to eleven, and they met me – a considerably younger woman and maybe the first he had brought into this house since their mother left – I never asked. Furnishings were sparse and the place had definitely not felt a female touch in some time. Food was primarily vegetarian and some kind of bean always seemed to be soaking in a bowl in the sink. He introduced me to the local natural food co-op and I met people who were different from most of my friends. I entered what I considered my ‘mother earth’ phase as I became a frequent visitor in his home and formed connections with the kids. A small sense of comfort sometimes settled over me while I was there, maybe from tasting the flavor of a family, or maybe from memories of life with facets far beyond the one I lived alone. I often sat in silence observing his interactions with the kids and the kids with each other. Sometimes I wanted to jump in and either chastise the kids for inappropriate behavior or stand up for them when I thought he was being too rigid. The closest I ever came to either was one evening at dinner, when I responded to a ridiculous statement by one of the older children with a sharp “Ha!” They all turned to look at me with eyes wide, as if a bullet had been fired from a hidden gun!
Clothes were usually purchased from the Salvation Army and the kids slept on mattresses on the floor. This was not due to lack of finances. It was his choice to embrace a philosophy of thrift and meeting basic needs rather than accumulating the material things that society proposed as necessities. The kids did not necessarily agree with this view. On rare occasions he butchered one of his own chickens for a meal. The children were required to watch the beheading to understand where the food they ate came from. I did not express my unease. I did not express a lot of things. He was older and these were his children. Who was I to suggest that things should be done differently?
I began to sense that his need to feel different, to place himself outside of the norm, was possibly due to reasons deeper than those that he readily voiced. I will never know if this was true. But these suspicions made me examine my own reasons for being with this man, my own need to feel different by choice instead of the difference I had felt for as long as I could remember. I had grown to love his children, but my feelings for him never reached that intensity. I yearned for a family, but one that included love for the person I shared it with. I eventually left despite – or maybe because of – his suggestion we marry and have children together. I deeply regretted becoming yet another woman in the children’s lives that moved on without them. It was a hard lesson for me, but I fear an even harder one for them.