Sometime in the 80s, in the middle of Rome and inside a crowded gelateria, I picked straws to determine the gender of my future children. It happened like this.
Rome in August is blisteringly hot and after a day on foot, we were ready for something cool. My dad ordered a lemon gelato. My mom, perhaps a pistachio. I am sure my brothers and I ordered something American and we all ordered something to drink. We collected the necessities–napkins, spoons, straws–while we waited. The straws, all pink or blue, sat wrapped in a glass dispenser on top of the refrigerated display case. I reached up for the first one and closed my eyes.
Pink or blue, this will tell me if my first child will be a boy or a girl. I pulled a blue straw. I closed my eyes and reached for a second straw.
Pink or blue, this will tell me if my second child will be a boy or a girl. I pulled a second blue straw. I closed my eyes and reached for a third straw.
Pink or blue, this will tell me if my third child will be a boy or a girl. I can’t remember what I pulled and since I only have two children, I suppose it’s irrelevant.
I was glad to pull two blue straws; I wanted sons. Five, ten, fifteen years later–that desire never wavered. I wanted three sons, in fact. Not that I have anything against girls. (Convenient since I am one.) It was just a preference I have always had and I used to think it was because I would always lack the self knowledge and maturity to mother daughters. Raising a daughter goes beyond picking out the perfect hair bow, and I never felt up to the task.
Now I know raising a son is equally hard. That’s what is so funny about wanting this gender over that one. There isn’t one that is easier. It is as difficult to raise sons as it is to raise daughters. Both require the best of your abilities. Both require you to be mentally sound and physically present. Both make you glow from the inside out and both can tamp out the same light with a dark and foreboding sense you are doing everything wrong. Both, in the end, are worth it.
I didn’t temp fate with straws in Rome because I knew I couldn’t raise daughters. Maybe, instead, I had a sixth sense I would one day find myself surrounded by adorable nieces.