As an only child with few close relatives, I have precious few children in my family – and those, on the West Coast, I’ve never met. I am myself without children, and have been an aunt only by marriage. But I have been blessed to have friends with their own wonderful kids.
No matter how seldom I see them, I am constantly amazed that there’s not one single dud in this young bunch. They’re not perfect, but this group is bright, talented and incredibly, genuinely nice. Oh sure, they have their moods and their problems, as do we all. Some are athletes, some scholars, some musicians, and some are your average kids trying to negotiate the rapids of adolescence without getting thrown overboard.
The largest group is around college age: three are at my alma mater, and there’s a whole new crop roaming the country, trying to figure out the next step in their young but very full lives. One is juggling college and single parenthood; one has been accepted down the road at Middlebury (and Cornell, and Georgetown, and a whole bunch of other top-flight schools); another, here with her father over the weekend, fell in love with Middlebury just yesterday.
She’ll likely get in to whatever college she wants: Not only is she bright, she has had a far greater range of experiences in 17 years than I have in 51. She’s a poised, mature young woman – serious but well-schooled in her father’s sarcastic sense of humor – who has grown up in a diverse, integrated, vibrant urban environment. Frankly, I’m jealous as hell.
She is, in short – like all in my far-flung youth circle – an amazing kid. Not all of them will make it to the Ivy Leagues, but that doesn’t make them any less remarkable. One, a straight-A student at a public university, spends her spare time at a nearby junior high helping coach a girls’ basketball team. Others have overcome overwhelming obstacles – learning disabilities, bad influences, family crises, illness or bullying – giving them an inner strength that I can only imagine. Some have moved past significant youthful indiscretions to emerge as mature, responsible, hardworking – and caring – adults.
I had nothing at all to do with how any of them turned out, but I’m proud nonetheless – of them and my friends who raised them. And I’m crossing my fingers that at least one of them ends up in Vermont so I can be a nearby port in their storms, a weekend home-away-from-home. I need all the role models I can get.