I just came back from Berkley, California, from my sister’s “baby party.” I hadn’t been to California in four years. Last time, I visited her in L.A., and Berkley, where she’s been living for about the past year, is quite a bit different from the city of the angels. Ann’s pretty much the same, though. She’s still in a communal living situation of the sort that she favors, surrounded by a surrogate family of her own making, including the father of her child to be, Brian. I knew Brian from the past. Some of the other faces were new, but they shared Ann’s vision, seemingly. A group of people living together, not out of necessity, but out of a mutual desire. I can’t claim to understand it. In my mind, you live with other people either because they’re family, direct, immediate family, or else because you’re poor and you have no choice but to take on roommates. But hey, Ann and I turned out to be very different people. That’s what I said when I stepped forward into the circle when the time came for us to state our intentions…our intentions toward Ann and Brian, and the new child who is to come, due in September. Most people would have had a baby shower, probably put up a list of child-related products online that guests could buy to help out. But that’s not Ann. She does things her own way, always has, and, I’m sure, always will. I know that I had been thinking for several weeks about what my “intentions” were going to be. Even when I stepped into the circle, I wasn’t sure what I was going to say. What I said was that I’ve always loved Ann, my only sibling, that I always would, and that while I had no idea what the needs of her child were going to be, or what Ann and Brian’s needs would be going forward, that I would be there for them, if there was anything I could do, and that I would be a good uncle when the time came. Ann said jokingly that my job would be to corrupt the child. I don’t know if that’s true or not. What I am sure of is that when the child comes to visit me and Megan, whether here in New York or anywhere else we might be, he or she is undoubtedly going to experience a different way of life from that which Ann and Brian have provided and shown.
What I didn’t say, when I stepped into the circle, is that in some ways, Ann is the person that I wished I could have been myself. I think she’s more free, in some ways, more free to be herself, and the hell with convention, the hell with what anyone else thinks. She has her view of the world, and she’s carved out a place for herself in it, alongside others who are, at the very least, uncommon. To have a unique or an unconventional vision and to see it through takes a lot of courage, even if Ann herself might not see it that way. I’m kind of curious to know what the child is going to be like, growing up in that sort of an environment. I wonder if he or she might find it jarring, a few years down the line, to leave California, if indeed Ann raises the little tot in Berkley, and finds out that communal living situations are the exception, not the norm. If they find out that in some other places, lots of other places, society frowns on boys wearing dresses and sparkly shoes, that women with male names are actually pretty unusual, or that polyamorous relationships are few and far between. It’s not that I’m condemning any of these choices, any of these lifestyles. Far from it. It’s just that you get out of California, you get away from Berkley, and things change, drastically, instantaneously. I have no doubt that Ann has great maternal instincts. I just wonder if the child, when he or she is old enough to understand these things, might not be disappointed when they reach out into the larger world for the first time, and perhaps might not find it as permissive and accepting as the parents might have encouraged it to believe. Call me the harsh voice of reality or cynicism if you must, but there’s not a lot of places in the real world, if you’ll forgive the expression, where you can get away with wearing fairy wings.
Oh well. I have no doubt that Ann and Brian will do the absolute best they can, as does any parent. I enjoyed myself at the baby party, and as I said, I do and always have admired my sister for her vision. I will do what I said I intended to do, which is be as good of an uncle as I can, and as good of a brother as I can. I understand the importance of family, and of blood. The intentions of everyone involved with this undertaking, the bringing about of the next generation of Finkelsteins, was good. I’m delighted that the family will go on. To Ann I say, congratulations, and all my love.