My mother tells me she would be happiest if I were living down the road from her in Montana. Next best, would be in a city with a major airport as a writer. Next would be a city without an airport. But nowhere in her formulation is me living as I do right now.
I don’t really want to hear about it. But I understand it. She doesn’t want me traveling to unstable countries, doing risky activates, or eating too much butter. But I do all of this and more. And my mother, you need to understand, is a woman who’s regularly bucked off of horses and chooses to go back for more.
I wish it didn’t matter. I wish I did not have the similar instinct to fit in with my parents and dismiss their wishes. I am them. I am not them. The points she makes that hurt the most are the ones I worry about as well.
“I’m the youngest of eight,” I tell people. Or I did until my sister told me I was lying. Rather, she told me I was misrepresenting myself.
“People are going to believe you when you tell them that,” she said.
“What’s so bad about that?” I asked.
Technically I only have one “real” sister, but add in five stepsisters and one stepbrother and the final dinner table is octagonal. And I am the youngest no matter what the seating arrangement. I used to think of myself as somewhere in the middle of the pack, back when I was married to a man older than 2/3 of my siblings. But then I got divorced and the first Thanksgiving after I wondered if I should go back to the kids table with everyone else’s children. I didn’t realize I never wanted to be the youngest until I had to be her again.
Does how we fit depend on where we fit? Youngest children are there to please, are the comic relief, are the ones with the greatest desire to be different. If all of this is true about me, does it forever conscribe me to be this? Maybe it’s why I chose to live in Colorado, triangulated with my family in Montana and Minnesota. Always a reference, never a full straight line.