In the spring of ’03 I had just finished up the third year of my writing degree at Linfield College. My fellow students were planning their summer vacations, jobs, going home to a family.
I was raising one.
One morning my professor handed me a piece of paper with a circled ad. It was for an internship at a publishing house in Portland. ‘Apply for it,’ he said, emphatic. And so I did.
I can still smell the copy and bindings, slick sheets of creamy paper heaped on desks, shelves to the ceiling, books and boxes piled high. I wore borrowed slacks and stumbled through my first, and only, real interview at thirty-two years old. They hated me, I just knew it. Before I got home there was an email waiting, asking when could I start.
I came from my computer elated, floated into the living room excited to tell the news. I remember this moment like it wasn’t eleven years ago. People always remember the moment their lives changed.
But I remember the moment mine didn’t.
Because when I walked into the living room all seven of the children who lived with me sat. Sixteen, fifteen, twelve, ten, nine, six, and four years old, all flopped down on the floor watching Blue’s Clues, heads turning to me because that’s how we were, them and I. And I knew. I knew I couldn’t take it.
Forget that over half of them were special needs. Forget the diagnoses, the histories of some of my kids. Discounting the DD, FAS, ODD, RAD, SID and every other acronym bombarding them. Forget the caseworkers, the visitations, the court cases and eminent reunification or adoptions. Forget the turn-of-century house remodel and the husband who already carried me. Heaving that heavy load aside…I could have made it work. Maybe I could have anyway. I don’t know.
What I do know is that the forty hours a week, unpaid internship that I couldn’t accept…would have changed the course of my life. I would have walked away with an education college couldn’t offer and the experience to maybe land the job of my dreams. I would have walked away with connections. I would have walked away with a different life. Better? I don’t know. Maybe just different.
It’s the proverbial fork in the road where we are forced to choose a path and sometimes we have to take the paved route. Not easier. Certainly not easier. But smoother…for those along for the ride.
And you will say, ‘Oh,Keri…but look at the lives you’ve changed with your kids…and how you’ve built a family…and how they love you. Blah…blah blah…” And I know. Life is about choices and at that moment, those kids needed me more. I know this is true and I pat myself on the back when nobody is looking but sometimes… I just want it to be about me.
Sometimes I want to climb to the top of the laundry heap and scream, “When? When is it my turn?”
Oh, but if I’d chosen that rutted, twisted path through the woods, how different things might have been. And most days…honestly…I’m tempted to trade a kid or two for the chance to find out.
And the husband says to me, “We’re almost there…hold on…” But I fear, in the deepest part of me, that he is wrong.