Tuesday, October 15, 2013
My mother's legacy
My niece is so happy away at college in Michigan. She's escaped the ties that bound her to family in Chicagoland and has come into her own. Blossomed. She's so proud of the home she shares with her boyfriend, of her job at Culver's, of her good grades and new circle of friends.
The only dark cloud on the horizon is that she feels so limited in her options after graduation. Not because of student debt or the job market. Because of her mother, my kid sister. My niece worries that she has to live somewhere where her parents can find employment.
My niece was very close to her grandmother, my mother. She never went more than a week without visiting Grandma's house. She saw how close her mother and grandmother were, how interdependent. Similarly, my mother and her own mother were very close and both lived their entire lives in the same suburb, just blocks from one another. When I was a toddler, my parents bought my mother's girlhood home from her parents, and that's where my mom was living when she died last year. My grandmother died without ever having boarded a plane.
But my niece is a more independent, ambitious, and curious soul than her mother, grandmother or greatgrandmother. I'm not sure that consciously choosing a constricted life would make her happy. Instead, it might leave her resentful.
And if she marries her boyfriend, which is her current plan, there's another wrinkle. Unlike her father, whose family is small, scattered and a bit estranged, her boyfriend's family is vast and loving. And nearby where they live now. It's possible -- even likely -- that he will want to be near his own parents, aunts and uncles. So what will they do? Find a city equidistant between families and hope they can find jobs?
I fear that my mother's legacy to her beloved granddaughter is a life full of "what if's." I hope I'm wrong. I'd love to be wrong.