i grew up as an only child, but i actually have siblings, half-siblings.  three of ’em.  all younger, from two to nearly thirteen years younger, my father’s second family.  they spent summers here when i was a kid, most years, but their lives were lived thousands of miles away.  we were more like cousins, growing up in different cultures and different houses, homes with utterly different expectations and socioeconomic relationships to the society around them.

when i left my home to traipse around the world and seek some kind of place for myself, two of them were still children…little kids i saw some summers, little kids with big eyes and squeaky voices and runny noses, kids i loved and enjoyed but barely knew.

these kids, they grow up, hey?  the two ‘little’ ones, now well into their mid-twenties, are having babies.

and they live here now, this whole clan who couldn’t have been further away all those years.   it is a strange thing, having a whole extended family where once there were none.   we float near each other’s lives, not terribly closely tied…but still curiously kin.  i feel protective of them, especially those little kids now grown to adulthood, but i also feel shy, outsider and insider both.  we have never had a lot in common. and yet, if all goes well, there will be three babies born within four months or so of each other, three little cousins.  and i wonder.  whether family ties will tighten as the younger two form families.  whether as adults we can come to be the siblings we never truly were as children.  whether the older of the brothers and his partner – who have three school-age kids between them but can have no more, and have lost – are wounded by the projected image of three little babies on a blanket next Christmas.  whether anyone knows how afraid i am that this image of the three, willful fantasy and foolishness though it is, will not come to pass.

my sister, the youngest of the four of us, had her first baby and the first of the expected three two days ago.   a healthy boy, wee Nigel,  absolutely gorgeous…and my sister a pint-size madonna with her infant, a natural, unperturbed.   he was 7 pounds, 8 ounces…bigger by far than either of my boys, and yet i forgot they came that small.  i always forget they come that small.  the new addition brings Oscar’s cousin count to six…all boys, on both Dave’s side and mine.  my father is convinced he’s getting a whole baseball team.  my brother’s girlfriend, though, is adamant she’ll have the first girl.  i look at her sidelong, trying to remember what it felt like to believe the things you want are simply the things you are entitled to, the way things will go.

i am afraid to wish for a beautiful boy like Nigel, bright-eyed and suckling.  and i am even more afraid to wish for the girl i was always sure i’d have – that wish seems so long ago and so ridiculously impossible, like wishing the baby turn out to be a lion cub, or a magical fairy.  i just wish that he or she come to exist, safely, not too early.  i’ve already lost one baby i hoped would be Nigel’s playmate…back in the fall, my sister and i were due only five or six weeks apart.  now it is not quite twenty-two…likely less, given the generally short duration of my pregnancies.  it feels like a flash and a lifetime, at the same time.