First, I’m the lady who resembles her mom in the photos of her earliest days, pictured holding her, sniffing her, nomming on her, and generally marveling at her perfection.

Second, we’re the little lady and the giant man who live in that hot place with lots of four-legged things that drool on her. She’ll get knocked over by Hayden’s happy tail, smell Kiwi’s sun-warmed fur, and watch fur-tumbleweeds roll by. We’ll be the place where she takes a lap around the block on a motorcycle on our laps (maybe — parental permission necessary for that one). She’ll pick a zucchini bigger than her and eat tomatoes off the vine in our yard.

Third, we’re the fun people who live a flight and a long car drive away whose lives revolve around their land. There will be a little cottage for her and her parents to stay in, land as far as she can see, and mountains in the distance. The fireflies at dusk and the rural star-lit skies will dazzle her. There’ll be chores to be done in the mornings, but afternoons will be lazy and for exploring. She’ll write her “My Summer” report in September about the time she climbed up a giant tree and saw to the end of the earth. She’ll learn that in our house, mutual respect, a modicum of discipline, and curiosity are well-rewarded.

Fourth, we’re the people who greet her with signs at the airport after her first flight alone. She’ll be reveling in her newfound freedom and then suddenly be wondering how she’ll survive the summer without constant internet access. She’ll learn how to fix engines, to drive our stick shift truck, and she’ll discover the beauty in strength while begrudgingly (or not) hauling feed and mucking the goat pens. She’ll have dirty nails all the time, even as she types away in a new language under the tutelage of her uncle.

Fifth, we’re the country-folk who fall down the priority list as she takes opportunities to explore the planet with her more worldly family-friends. Maybe we’ll pop up in her thoughts in the midst of a crowded city or when she needs to drive her drunk friend’s stick shift car from the bar and she remembers what she learned at the farm. Or not. It’s not personal. We’ll be the quiet oddity in her social circle, biding our time.

Sixth, we’re those people who still live in that same house on that same piece of land a flight and a car drive away. She’ll find us in her times of soul-searching, maybe in her times of weariness and heartbreak when she needs respite from her fast-paced life. She’ll be surprised by the smallness of the cottage whose loft felt so tall when she was ten, and still find joy in climbing the ladder into bed after a long day in the sun (probably mucking pens again, because poop is life is poop is life).

Seventh, we’re the people who help to show her the worthwhile nature of life, both because of and in spite of how trying and unfair every day can be. She’ll come by with dedicated friends and significant others (after all, it’s a trek to get to us) and share her life and loved ones with us over cups of tea. And maybe, maybe one day, she’ll come by with kids of her own and we’ll get to watch them grow, too, as they clamber over the same rocks and retrace the scribbles on the wall she left there so many years ago.

At the end of the day, these aren’t prescriptive hopes for her, nor do we want to dictate how our relationship will develop. Rather, these are hopes for myself and my future. These are my deepest yearnings to be a part of society’s foundation, so solid and so secure that others might find the courage to take flight, reassured that there will be a safe place to land. My success as a human being is in the growth of others, in spreading compassion, in creating a small haven for those that I love in a world that seems increasingly difficult to navigate while retaining our humanity. It’s an honor to have such family, whether by blood or by choice, and to nurture myself so that I can feed and care for these people sounds like the most fruitful use of my skills and my time on earth.

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