The entire family gathered again this morning - this time for a family portrait. It's something my mom's been wanting to do for quite some time now, and even though there'll be two new people joining the family next year, she figured she might as well take advantage of having all of us in the same state for a change.
After we left the photographer, we headed for the outlet stores, specifically the children's clothing stores. I wasn't too thrilled, but figured it was to be expected, since both my sisters have little ones who wear that sort of stuff. It wasn't too long before I was itching to get out of there, surrounded by racks of teeny tiny cutesy outfits, screaming babies, rampaging toddlers. I finally escaped outside and found an empty bench. It wasn't much longer after that that my dad, and both brothers in law joined me. We sat there, shivering in the cold, giving half-smiles of understanding, and I suddenly realized that I was on a different side of the shopping fence. My mom and sisters were inside, fingering the merchandise, and here I was, sitting with the Weary Husbands - those tired men who slouch in chairs outside dressing rooms, usually clutching a package or too, with expressions that say all too clearly that they'd rather be anywhere but there, that even a root canal might be preferable to what they're currently doing.
And there I was, sitting among them, same expression, thinking similar thoughts. It was more than a little depressing to realize that I was joining those ranks, and I won't be able to escape them for probably years. I am the odd man out in my family now. It's not so unusual - I've been the lone single one for years - but this time it's worse. This time, I'm the sole childless one, and as that's not a situation I have any intention of changing, this means that I'm going to be even more of an outsider as time passes.
For a moment, I felt nearly like crying. There was a heavy feeling behind my eyes and I could feel the tears welling up, as I did my best to hold them back. I know that the emotions aren't just from this revelation - the past few months have been insane with work and everything else, and I've probably been in need of a good cry for a while now. But still, to have it come up at this time, sitting outside in the cold, huddled on a bench between my dad and my brothers in law, well, it wasn't a very welcome thought.
My sisters have become Mothers, and I'm never going to be able to cross that impenetrable wall. Their lives are, quite understandably, completely wrapped up in their children. My younger sister, even though she's a stay-at-home mom to a 10-month old, seems to be able to talk about other things, but my older sister's whole life revolves around her son. As we all headed for lunch, something must have showed on my face, because my younger sister came over. I told her how, but then felt immediately guilty. It's not that I want them to ignore their kids. It's just that I miss my sisters, and sitting on that bench, I felt as if they were slipping away from me into a world I won't be able to reach.
Later on, the children down for naps at my parents' house, my sisters and I slipped away to go chat around ice cream sundaes and coffee. We stole a few precious hours to just talk. Children rarely entered the conversation, but men did, as is often the case when we would get together in times past. We laughed and teased, asked about friends and jobs and houses. And just for a short time, it was as if we were all still the same as before children and marriages ever entered the picture.
I drove home in the fog with a sense of resigned relief. I may not relish spending the next decade or two as an odd female member of the Weary Husbands club, but at least I don't have that need to weep about what I've lost. It's still there, buried under diapers and discussions of weaning and toilet training, and will still be there once the children grow. I just have to be patient, accepting that while things will never be the same as they were, it's not going to be so bad.