When I asked Twitter what I should blog about, a friend suggested childlessness. I replied that it’s never been an issue. I have known since I was a child myself that parenting held no interest for me. It’s too hard, and there’s too much at stake, to go into it even half-heartedly, much less with negative interest. I stuck to my resolution and emerged on the far side of fertility without a single regret.
Yes, she countered, but since you have written about the legacies you’ve inherited from your parents, I wondered whether you’d anything to say about your own legacy.
Ah. Well. Indeed.
I don’t think of myself as being my parents’ legacy. I never subscribed to the notion of children as a safeguard against death, left on Earth after my departure to remind everyone I’d been. Nor could I condone a former friend’s longing for children on the basis that they would love her unconditionally. Honey, you can’t guarantee that’ll happen, I warned. Sometimes I wonder how things turned out for her.
I grew up with three living grandparents, an aunt, an uncle, and a smattering of once- and twice-removed cousins so rarely seen that I still couldn’t pick them out of a police line-up. My parents actively avoided their families. Visits to their folks were sold as a duty to be endured, not a treat to be enjoyed. We did not holiday together. (We did not holiday much at all.)
So I didn’t grow up with a strong sense of clan or the idea that DNA persisted as anything other than a biological (instead of, say, a philosophical) fact. Identity, for me, is an in the moment thing, subject to modifications over time.
Oh sure, I kept a diary. And flirted with the idea that there’d be a biography written. I am no stranger to hubris and did occasionally keep one eye on posterity. But these days it’s a blind eye.
Prompted to contemplate my legacy, I discover I don’t think much about it at all. I quite contentedly expect to die and be forgotten – and more and more forgotten as time passes and those who knew me take their own turns knocking on heaven’s door. Even the things I still hope to do – publish some books, fall in love (and be loved) again – none of that is for the ages. It would be preposterous to think that my work, should it find an audience in my lifetime, would endure over centuries. It’s not even one of my aspirations. Does that make me a smaller person or just a pragmatic one?
Then again, maybe I haven’t got time to fret about how I’ll be remembered by subsequent generations because I can’t help noticing my lack of impact on this generation here, now.
Yes do picture me with my hand against my forehead, swooning, and laughing my ass off.
Because. . .
If I had to get picky, I’d quote something Frances Barber told me towards the end of a long, thoroughly enjoyable interview:
“When I die I would love people to say ‘She was a laugh.’”
That. That precisely. That’ll do me just fine.