A quick decision made decades ago led to my transferring to the University of Wisconsin-Madison after one semester at another school. The spectacular outcome was not only a perfect academic alignment with my social and political 18-year-old self, but also that I met the man of my dreams.
Together, we made another quick decision to quit our law jobs, spend six months living in Israel, and then head west as a carefree married couple. My husband had to un-peel my arms from the tight embrace I had around my beloved mother-in-law’s body as we said our final goodbyes and departed our childhood Chicago homes to the unscripted adventure that landed us in Seattle.
We did not envision a permanent move that had us “raising a family without a village.” Our physical distance from one of the most extraordinarily loving, boisterous and outrageously fun extended families (mine!) causes us to now spend a healthy chunk of each summer’s end on the shores of Lake Michigan. On these vacation shores (from where I write this note), we soak in the day-to-day fabulous familiarity of aunts, uncles and cousins.
When my husband and I went west as a young couple, we had, as author Natalie Singer-Velush describes so eloquently, “no kin, no built-in village.” With significant challenge, and without our big families’ warm embrace, we, too, found our way. This physical separation also gave us greater freedom and space to define how we raised our own family.
I often reference Gwyneth Paltrow’s 1998 flick Sliding Doors. We witness her love life and career, which both hinge, unbeknownst to her, on whether or not she catches a train. As viewers we see her story both ways, in parallel. I often observe my beautiful and thriving family and think how different our lives could look. I am grateful beyond words for what life in Seattle has brought to us that goes well beyond the physical. Friends who have truly become family in every sense bring immeasurable joy and comfort.
As a village, we will celebrate our eldest daughter’s blessed engagement to the charming and delightful Adam, who is the man of her dreams (and, may I say, ours). Their union has similar “sliding door” moments that solidify that certain magic that combines mindful and fast decisions with greater mystical forces.
Adam has now experienced the glorious fairy-tale summer days and warm love from our big Chicago family. This place never loses its magic and helps me remember, as our kids grow and fall in love, that so many of the supposedly ordinary places and times in life are quite exceptional.
It’s presumptuous of me, but my guess is you’re a near crazy multi-tasking parent. As a super-fan of the NYT Magazine’s “That Should Be a Word” — may I suggest we try to limit our September “faultitasking” as we head back into the unrelenting pace of the school year?
n. 1. To create chaos by attempting to do too many things at once.