This is what I prayed for, for as long as I can remember, since first grade, all the way through third and fifth and eighth, and even when I was in high school: a brother or a sister. I didn’t care.
Please, God, please, I begged every Sunday in church and every time I made a novena. Please, God, please, I wished on every birthday candle, on every first star and on every dandelion gone to seed.
I had faith. I had patience. Plus, I knew all the tricks: The wishbone. The fortune cookie. Santa Claus. Please, Santa Claus, please won’t you bring me a brother or a sister?
But years passed, and there was still no baby. I thought that no one had listened to my prayers, that no one had heard.
But someone had. That's what I know now for certain. Not in my time, but "in God’s time," as my friend Father Coen used to say. I had never believed in the truth of this phrase. Now I do. Now I get it.
Everything I prayed for? The baby in the crib sleeping next to me. The three-year-old running down the beach, across a playground, through a sprinkler, swinging, climbing, laughing. The six-year-old slamming into me on a bumper car ride, holding my hand as we cross a street, sitting on my lap, crawling into my bed.
Can you sing me a song? Can you read me a book? The brother or sister I had begged for? I got them both — plus more.
[poll]A Bounty of Grandchildren
Technically, of course, my children’s children are not my little brothers and sisters. Technically, they are my grandchildren. And yet who can deny that they are the answer to my prayers?
I had asked for someone to play Monopoly and War with. Someone who would take these games seriously. And I got Adam.
I had asked for someone to take to the park, to go on rides with at Canobie Lake, someone who would like Shirley Temple movies as much as I do. And I got Lucy. I had wanted someone who would prefer ice cream and candy over "real" food and who would love riding with the car windows open. And I got Charlotte. I had wanted someone to pretend with, someone who would tell great stories. And I got Amy. I had wanted someone who would ask me in the middle of the day to sing him to sleep at night. And I got Matty. I had wanted someone to play dress-up with. And I got Megan. I had wanted someone to hold and to rock and to push all over town in a stroller. And I got Luke.
All together and each alone, these children are my every childhood wish come true.
I was tucking five of them into bed the other night at a friend's house in New Hampshire, with a visit to Santa's Village on tap for the next day. They were in one big room with a slanted ceiling, each in a separate cot. Their mothers had already read and sung to them and kissed them goodnight. Now it was my turn.
When It's Meant to Be
I was singing "Tammy," because they like this song, because it's slow and they fall asleep to it. I was singing it over and over — Sing it again, Mimi, sing it again — studying them in the dim light, fresh from their baths, their hair shiny, their faces bronzed, thinking about how when I was a child I used to sing "Tammy" to myself in an upstairs room with a slanted ceiling just like this.
And it struck me: This is how long I have dreamed them.
They love movies where the main characters sing, and they love farms (well, Charlotte's afraid of pigs) and water parks and the ocean and pools and playgrounds and silly riddles. (What did one potato chip say to the other? Shall we go for a dip?) I didn't grow up with these children. But they are growing up with me.
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