The novel's protagonist/narrator is a young Scottish boy named David, a keen observer of the people around him. David's friend, Freda Lorimer, wishes she was a boy; her father (described as a "difficult" man) wanted a son, but got three daughters, including twins (!). David's mother fusses over the twins when they come to visit, prompting David to ask if she wishes he’d been a girl.
"Oh Davie, you mustn't be jealous! There's more misery caused by jealousy than anything else in the world. Jealousy is wicked and foolish too. It's like a disease," said Mother earnestly. "It's like an awful creeping disease. It's like ivy strangling a tree."Having said this, David's mother admits she would have liked a girl – a sister for him. Like David, she was an only child, and feels she missed something valuable in life -- but as she points out:
“...we can't choose. Some people get what they want and some don’t… They say it’s bad for you to have everything you want but some people can’t bear to be thwarted. Nethercleugh (the Lorimer farm) would be a happier house if there were a laddie in it.”"Some people get what they want and some don't." This line reminded me of Ariel Levy's book, "The Rules Do Not Apply" and how she asks New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd about having children. Dowd tells her, "Everybody doesn't get everything."
Life can disappoint us in ways big & small -- this is certainly something we learn when it comes to adoption, loss, infertility and coming to terms with childlessness. There will always be "what ifs?" and speculation about the life we might have had, if only... I think that learning to make the most of the hand we're dealt -- acknowledging our disappointment, but then making our peace with the life we wanted and learning gratitude for the life we have -- is the key to a (reasonably?) happy life (whether you have to deal with infertility & loss, or not). It can be a lifelong struggle, of course, and some of us do better (or worse) at it than others -- but the point is to keep trying. We can let our grief and disappointment eat away at us and sour us on life, as with Freda's father -- or we can try to enjoy the life that's in front of us. There are some choices we don't get to make, as David's mother observes -- but that's a choice that we do have.
In the immortal words of Sheryl Crow (lol), "It's not having what you want/It's wanting what you've got." :)
I think that, if I've learned one key life lesson from these past 19 years, this would be it.
What do you think?