My mother chose the morning of my eighteenth birthday to inform me that I almost didn’t happen. So long, childhood, hello brand new adult life.
My father was about to leave on an expedition, my mother continued, and was all packed and ready to say his last goodbye to his fiancée, my mother, before setting off, when he double-checked his plane ticket and realised that in fact he had another half-hour to spare.
It transpires it was during that half hour that I came to be.
Three months later a couple of letters crossed their paths over choppy waters of the Atlantic. Letter number one was from my mother to my father sharing the happy news of my imminent arrival with him. Letter number two was from the leader of my father’s expedition informing my mother that my father had decided to join the Amazonian tribe he was supposed to photograph.
As a child I only asked my mother about my father once. She responded that she hoped he had been eaten by the biggest crocodile in the darkest corner of a swamp in the Rainforest. Something in the tone of her voice told me not to ask again.
Ever since my mother opened up about details of my haphazard conception, I learnt to treasure every moment of my life, the life that came so close to never happening at all that I felt obliged to cherish it. I count my blessings and I celebrate every day. I live what the carpe diem school of thought life coaches preach.
The thing I am most grateful for in my accidentally created life is my own family that I have built, purposefully and deliberately, with my husband, because despite my mother’s desperate attempts to talk me out of men, I fell in love and got married.
I have stayed married for a rather long time now. There are five of us. The children are no longer children in the eyes of major airlines and hotel reservation systems, but they are and will forever remain children to me. They are coming to terms with the fact that their mother is in denial about their growing up.
Our chaotic lives are perfectly capable of running independently of each other for extended periods of time, but we always come together at moments of hunger, boredom and cold weather. We seek each other out whenever we feel anxious, overwhelmed, overworked, unappreciated, ugly, fat, or simply having a bad hair day.
We also come together in our moments of triumph, big or small, and we make it real by sharing with the others. One way or another we come together a lot.
I believe that witnessing one’s little family coming of age is the best experience that anybody will ever go through in this life. It is actually far better, much more rewarding than I ever thought possible. Having a family is the most mundane, most common thing that happens to people, but at the same time it feels like a miracle that happens to me and me alone, again and again, one day at a time.
My daughters have grown up to be these beautiful, amazing creatures, wise beyond their years, brave, witty, and strong.
My son is doing his level best to figure out what’s what, to make sense of the world around him. It’s still hit and miss, but he will get there.
Every now and again I think of my father. I like to believe that he has survived my mother’s curse, and I picture him somewhere out there in the Amazon jungle, as he watches a mating dance of neon blue poison arrow frogs on the ground, or the frolics of spider monkeys swinging from treetops overhead. A couple of toucans croak nearby and a flock of red and blue parrots soars high up in the sky.
I cannot begin to comprehend the madness that made him give up the joys of family life with my mother and me for that sort of crap.
This story is a work of fiction. It is not based on my personal family circumstances. It’s an exercise in nonsense writing fueled by my imagination. I apologise for misleading anybody into thinking otherwise.