Heirlooms without Heirs

woman sunset sepia

When I was still a young child, my parents toyed briefly with the idea of having more children. More specifically, my biological father tried to coerce my mother into popping out another babe.

My mother refused and put her foot down, but he was so insistent that my mother finally sat me down for a serious conversation.

Guarding the Inheritance 

“Do you want a baby brother or sister?” she asked, in earnest.

“No!” I said quickly. “I don’t want any.”

Amused by how quickly I shot the idea down, she asked me, “Why?”

I pouted and lifted my chin in open defiance. “I don’t want to share my inheritance!”

At the time, I had no idea what that inheritance would be, and now, I’m not sure why that even crossed my mind at such a young age.

Nevertheless, my mother honoured my request and raised me as an only child. When she became a single mother a decade later, she thanked me a thousand times for ensuring she stuck to that decision.

Catching the Babies

Years later, when I was nineteen years old, my first friend became pregnant. By this, I mean, she was the first friend my own age who ‘caught the babies’ – as my best friend and I termed it.

As we grew older, more and more of our friends caught the babies. It had the contagion of the influenza. Before long, there were only a handful of friends I had gone to school with, who did not have children. My childless friends and I looked on in wonder.

When I turned 21 years old, I called my mother from my college apartment. “What the hell were you thinking?” I asked her.

She laughed. “What are you talking about?”

“What could ever convince you to have a child at 21??? I would never do such a ridiculous thing.”

My mother laughed again and said, “Good. Don’t have any! Maybe ever.”

Societal Pressure

When I graduated, found a job, and started to enjoy my young adult years, I noticed a huge shift in societal expectations of me. Suddenly, as a college graduate at 22, there was the expectation that I should be married, that I should want kids, that I should have kids.

A few months later, my boyfriend at the time whisked me off on a weekend trip to a fancy five-star hotel and treated me to a lazy beach day and fine Italian dining. Then after one too many drinks, he professed his undying love, and asked me to marry him.

I told him no, and a few weeks later, the relationship was done. He is now married to the very woman he spent our relationship complaining about. She was older, and ready for marriage – and I was not.

He was not the only disappointed one.

“You’re selfish,” men often tell me. “A woman like you – your beauty, your intelligence – your genes are the kind we need reproduced in society. How can you keep them to yourself?”

If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, I probably wouldn’t be freelancing today…

Familial Pressure

One day, I went to visit my grand-aunt in my hometown of German Town, Jamaica. I had not seen her in years, and she was delighted to know that I had graduated with honours from college, that I was employed, and that I was traveling. She was not delighted to know I had no children and no husband.

“What are you waiting on?” she asked me, incredulously. “This is the best time to have them, while you’re still young.”

I laughed.

She did not laugh with me. “I’m serious.”

“And who will take care of them?” I asked her. “When I have them, I’ll be sure to drop them off on your doorstep.”

She didn’t find that funny, either, and began to whisper in concerned tones with my mother.

“She doesn’t want kids,” Mom said, proudly.

“And that doesn’t bother you?”.

“No, it’s fine by me; I don’t want to be a grandmother, either.”

Coming to Terms

A few months after my mother returned to America, I called her. I had been thinking a lot lately about my life and where it was headed.

“I can’t picture myself ever getting married or having kids,” I told her. “When I think of my life ten years from now, I see myself living in a great apartment in the city, with an amazing skyline view. And it is empty. And I am happy.

“It’s not that I want that life,” I explained. “But when I look at my decisions and I think about the things I want, I can’t see it turning out any other way.”

“Your father and I have discussed that,” she admitted. “We don’t think you ever will, either.”

“It sounds like absolute bliss to me,” I confessed, “but I wonder if my 35 and 50 year-old self will agree. Or will they despise the decisions I’ve made in my youth?”

Ironically, two years later I was married.

Presented with Heirlooms

In the year leading up to my marriage, I was presented with one of the family heirlooms.

Though my family is by no means wealthy, there are certain assets that have passed through the family over the years. They are perfectly worthless now unless I sell them, to be sure, but could be a source of fortune for me 10 years from now, or for a hypothetical child in 30.

When I got married, my mother also presented me with a second heirloom: an extravagant wedding ring from her first marriage. My biological father had sent threats and tried to move mountains to get that ring back, but mom held on to it.

We joked that it was the one good thing from her marriage; and now it’s mine.

But What Legacy..?

There were other things I got for getting married. For starters: family, friends, and strangers began to wonder and ask, When’s the baby coming?

“What baby?” I often wonder. “The cat, you mean?” Certainly, they can’t mean anything else. What could be better – for me anyway – than an empty womb?

My stepfather, who fully supports my decision, nonetheless asked me what was the point of heirlooms without heirs. I am the last of the line of eldest daughters in a family that has been a matriarchy since my great-great-grandmother, and perhaps before.

The women make the decisions in our family, and the women fund them whatever their cost. The women are the educated ones, and the main breadwinners; and so, the women usually inherit all.

Until writing The Moreau Witches, I had not thought of this before, or even noticed a similarity between the fictional Moreau family, and my own. But I suppose subconsciously, the knowledge was there.

So, my stepfather poses a valid question: After my mother and I, what next? And yet, I can’t say I care, or that I feel any more moved to continue the family legacy in the form of something that walks, and talks, and breathes, and moves, and needs tuition money for four to eight years.

In fact, the very thought of having a child fills me with absolute dread.

Unprepared and Unwilling

A big part of that dread comes from the fact that I am definitely not in a place in my life where I would even dream of having kids, and my reasons are innumerable.

After surviving four heart conditions in my 27 years, I’m not sure I would even survive pregnancy. It’s not something I ever cared enough to ask a doctor, and probably won’t bother myself with asking any time soon. Perhaps, I already know the answer.

Along with that, having given up everything, and moved to a new country, I’m starting over from scratch. I have to build my credit from scratch, start saving from scratch, build up work experience with companies American employers can actually recognise from scratch.

I have no business throwing a child into the mix.

Throw Out. Replace. Repeat.

And then I think of my parents’ marriage, and how two decades ended in fire and brimstone. But more importantly, I think of the endless discomfort and verbal abuse my mother faced, while having to play nice with a psychopath, because he had fathered her child.

Of course, no one goes into marriage expecting these things. My mother certainly did not, nor did I. And yet… these things happen to women every single day, all around the world.

I, even more so than my mother, come from a generation where people do not fix things. They simply replace them and walk away.

My generation keeps their cell phones longer than they keep their relationships, which is saying quite a bit considering consumerist culture.

People say in time, I may very well cast doubt aside and change my mind. My biological clock will start ticking, baby fever will take a hold of me, and before long, I will have caught the babies. 

Perhaps they are right, and perhaps not. What I do know is that the matriarchal line in my family may very well end with me. And you know what? Somehow, I’ve made my peace with that.


84 thoughts on “Heirlooms without Heirs

  1. I really love this piece, and I think only people who want children should raise children. I also don’t have the same view of heirlooms that my mother holds. I do not value things in the same way. I prefer experiences, she prefers stuff. She thinks I should value stuff more, so she gives me stuff. I think she should value experiences more, but I still give her stuff because it makes her happy.

    1. Thank you. The heirlooms/assets I got, I definitely can’t complain about. They aren’t little trinkets for me to look at. They really do make a difference. But I suppose I’ll enjoy them for my lifetime and then that’s it. As you said, only people who want kids should raise them.

      As for you and your mom, I guess we all find happiness in different places..

      Thanks again!

  2. Another great post, but you know that already. 🙂
    You must only do what you want to do. I’m not even maternal and I have 3 children… Haha! And they all know that although they are not mistakes, they were all accidents. Lol!

    1. Lol. Oh my God Anne! Can’t believe you said that! Hahahahahaha. Well I was planned and my mom made sure it was only me. I’m grateful for that. She is in full support of never becoming a grandmother.

      Thanks again Anne. You’ve made my day!

      1. Haha! And we’ve all had a lot of laughs about that 😂
        I also don’t want to be a grandmother so I get your mom, but I don’t think I’ll get that wish. Oh well…
        However, if you do change your mind, you should go right ahead.. 😝😊💖

  3. Great story Alexis. Actually, ANOTHER great story of yours. Really admire how honest and personal you get. One thing is make the life decisions that are best for you yet another is to justify them on the blog.

    1. Hey Sonia! Thank you! I don’t know that I try to justify them as much as just share my point of view. To justify implies that there’s something wrong with my decision. I merely want to remind people of the other side of the coin. There are a lot of stereotypes making women out to be the ring hunting, baby making machines with no vision past trapping a man.

  4. I’m 43, I have no children, I live alone with my own company in my own home, I have more fingers on one hand than family members, but I am so very content.
    I do not feel the need to share my life, I have absolutely no desire to be a mother.
    I’m an adventurer and I value my freedom and the fact that I only have myself to be accountable for being myself.

    A beautifully written blog, very insightful and enjoyable to read.
    Thank you for sharing xxx

    1. Good to hear from someone who’s living it. I’m glad you’ve found happiness that way. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. You’ve inspired me to keep doing exactly what I’m doing now haha

  5. Whether to “catch babies” or not is your choice. It’s time society stopped putting pressure on women to have babies. It is offensive to those who’d love to but are unable to as well.

    1. That’s very true Norah, and like I said in the post, I might be one of those who shouldn’t for health reasons.

      I’ve learned to humor the people who criticise me for that decision though. Most of them have kids and the way they complain. .. they do say misery loves company…

      1. That’s interesting. I read a post today in the Huffington Post Parent about someone who questioned whether parenting was rewarding and whether it was for everyone. It was a great follow-up to yours.

      2. That’s right. Only it was a Dad’s perspective. I read it as a woman’s viewpoint and didn’t realise until I got to the end it was a man. Although the author’s name was Robin, and it was a male friend interviewed, it wasn’t until I read these words “an image of my wife holding my daughter’s hand popped into my head” that I realised. Interesting isn’t it? I guess it could be from either viewpoint. Maybe we were misled by the feature image. It could make for an interesting discussion between men and women.

      3. Yeah, I read it as a woman’s perspective too. Didn’t even realise it was a man. That’s even more telling I think. Maybe it’s because men don’t post about parenting as much as women do, so we fell into that bias trap.

  6. I can’t wait to see the bay pics and the posts you write about the struggle and the joy : ) but I have listened to Buddhist teachers talk about the enlightened path and saying woman don’t have to have babies but I m a man and don’t understand that stuff. My sister had her babies at 37 after lots of trouble and her kids look really cool. My daughter frightens the life out of me with her intelligence at 16. We fear they’ll be worse than us or damaged by our pain but they seem to sail right past and become something far greater than us which is really cool to see.

    1. Tough luck David. You won’t be seeing any such things any time soon. Baby pictures he says. Ha! And ha again!

      I’m glad you’re enjoying parenthood though. Kudos to you. Most parents these days aren’t bragging about their 16 year old these days 🙂

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