"Fantasies of Family"

Being a single mother is right for me and my daughter. But sometimes, fantasies of a different life creep in.

Family fantasies for single parents are common.

Like any other red-blooded single mother, I have fantasies. You know, the garden-variety kind, involving George Clooney and his Italian villa, a merry band of leprechauns who cook and clean for me, and large royalty checks spilling from my mailbox. Having George, household help, and a steady stream of cash, I’ve always felt, would make my life more pleasant — if not easier.

Lately, though, I’ve had fantasies of a different kind. The other morning, for instance, as I lay in bed listening to a male voice droning on my answering machine, I wondered, “Could this be my long-lost brother?” (No such luck: It was a local politician begging for votes.)

I grew up an only child, rarely wishing for siblings. Perhaps this was because I lived with my mom, dad, grandmother, great-aunt, and two dogs in a midsize house, which often got loud and crowded. Years later, after Eleni came along, my desire for siblings dwindled further. My daughter, my parents, and a close-knit group of friends were the only family I needed. Or so I thought.

Last year, my life took an unexpected turn when my father died of cancer and my mother became incapacitated by ill health and grief. Suddenly, Eleni and I were alone in the world with few, and diminishing, blood ties. Suddenly, I found myself wishing there were more of us — brothers and sisters I’d never met; extended family in China that shares Eleni’s genes; people who look like us and see themselves in our eyes.

Of course, the possibility of finding lost siblings, or even Eleni’s birth family, is remote. So that’s where fantasies come in. On that Saturday morning when the phone rang, I envisioned the man on the other end — my brother, about 50, a successful Hollywood producer. In my mind’s eye, he was warm and loving, with a family and kids, and he wanted to meet Eleni and me right away. (Why was my brother placed for adoption, and how did he get my phone number? Who knows? But since he and I share the same parents, we must look stunningly similar.) After we talk for a while, he invites us to his Beverly Hills home, to play in his large, heated pool, under palm trees. I readily accept, and that’s where the fantasy ends.

As a parent, I awake each day to reveries, responsibilities, and reality. Sometimes Eleni joins me in a daydream, telling me that her birth mother likes to wear pretty necklaces and her hair up in a bun. But mostly she depends on me — as does my own mother — to keep our family strong. Whether I’m working, paying bills, cleaning the apartment, or making long-term decisions, I usually do so alone. This is my life now, and I accept it.

But there’s something to be said for fantasies, those glorious little scenes that enter our minds in the middle of the day and lift us up when we’re overwhelmed. Sometimes they take the edge off, sometimes they add whimsy to life, and sometimes they are simply things to dream of. Hey — at the end of the day, you never know.


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