What will I have to pass on?
This is what I think about as I melt beeswax. I’d say I melt it slowly, but there’s no other way to melt it. I purchased a 12-pound slab in the fall from a local beekeeper. In the heart of winter darkness, I bring it up from the basement. I set a glass jar in a pot of boiling water. I take out a chisel and a hammer and I start chipping away.
It is slow going. After I gather two handfuls of chips and chunks, I take it over to the stove and drop it in the glass jar, being careful not to drop any in the water. Then I head back to the counter and continue to chip, guessing how much I need to fill my jar.
My grandmother gave me the jar I was using for the candle. It was her mother’s canning jar. I imagine it has held many things throughout the years—beets, beans, carrots, tomatoes, peaches and who knows what else. Grandma is nearing the end of her days. Nothing is wrong with her, but at the age of 75, you must realize that your days are limited whether you are healthy or not.
The result has been the great “giving away” that my grandparents have been going through for years. Each visit to their house results in heading home with a handful of extra items—old glass jars, framed pictures, cooking magazines and special linens.
What will I have to pass on?
My husband and I found out we couldn’t have children when we were 30 and 32. In many ways, it ruined our dreams. In many ways, it ruined my dreams—of becoming a mother and having multiple children, of being a young mother and of passing on such things.
In many ways, it ruined our dreams. In many ways, it ruined my dreams—of becoming a mother…
It also made me obsessed with my family line. I’d spend my time counting. Mom was just shy of 19 when she married and Dad was 24. They started having kids around ages 23 and 28. They had five children by the time my mom was 34.
Then, I go further back and do the math. Grandma and Grandpa were 20 and 24 when they got married. Their first child was born around the ages of 21 and 25. They were in their 40s when their grandkids were being born.
I’d think about these details—these facts—over and over because they were something I’d never be able to give my children. I’d never be a young mother. I’d never give my children young grandparents.
In my 30s now, I recognize all that I was given without even realizing it: decades of life with grandparents, parents who could easily move around and were still having fun when we were young, a full life.
Infertility makes me deeply question my life. What I ask and wonder are the same questions that I imagine mothers ask themselves: What will I pass on? Do I have enough to give? Am I giving a full life? Am I enough?
Infertility makes me deeply question my life.
Somewhere in someone’s computer database, my husband and I are on a list. It’s an adoption waiting list to get to the starting line of home study paperwork. We’ve been on it for almost two years. Who knows how long it will be before we can start the adoption process, grow our family and become a mother and father. My obsession with dates and times is most certainly connected to the uncertainty of adoption timelines and the lack of dates.
A few weeks ago as I was going through old documents and records, I came across a note about flowers delivered to my mother after one of her back surgeries. I looked at the date and did the math. It was when my mom was 39, young for back surgery.
Then, I thought back. This wasn’t her first surgery. Her first back surgery was at the age of 34. Now that I am 33, I realize how young that was, how disappointed she must have been, how she must have wondered what she had to pass on when she could barely move without pain at such a young age and whether she was giving a full life.
I always thought my mother was old. She was always old to me. I laugh now to myself because I realize my fear of being an old parent is mine alone. It is not what I will pass on—my children will always think I’m old, no matter how young or old I am.
New answers have started forming to my question. What will I pass on?
I will pass on my great-grandmother’s canning jar, now used as a homemade candle. I will pass on my Grandma’s Joy of Cooking book. I will pass on my mother’s egg bake recipe and love of Polish Pottery. I will pass on my words of wondering, of love and of waiting.
What legacy will you pass on to your children? What fears do you have about motherhood?
Image via Raisa Zwart Photography