I grew up in a tiny one square mile town with several large families. My childhood friends were the youngest of ten, the youngest of eight, the youngest of seven, one of six, the youngest of five, The oldest of four, etc, etc, etc. Of course, there were plenty of us with one to three children, but I was completely in heaven when I visited the homes of the big families. My own siblings are 12 and 14 years older than I. When I was little, there was a house full of teenagers. Their friends were a part of our family. I loved the chaos. I stayed awake as long as humanly possible every night so I wouldn't miss overhearing one teeny detail of conversation and the happenings of my teen siblings. And then...they went off to boarding school and college...and things got quiet. It was at about that time, I decided I wanted to have ten children.
As a teenage girl and young woman, I would happily announce that I wanted ten children. When I was in college, my father told me he needed to have a conversation with me. I knew from his tone of voice and the way he sat me down that it was serious. He told me that it was important that I stop telling boys I was dating or potential boyfriends that I wanted ten children. In his mind, this was going to drastically downgrade me in the "eligibility for marriage" category of any young suitors. Perhaps, he thought, he would have to start acquiring cows for a dowery to go with this completely illogical daughter he apparently was preparing to marry off at 20. What he didn't realize was that this parent-child moment only encouraged me to continue talking about wanting a big family. I knew I would need a partner who shared my same goal. Or was as crazy as I was. Little did I know that after a divorce, a few years of single parenting of 5 small children, that I would find that very man. An amazing man with two young boys who wanted to marry a woman with 5 children. At the time, my father was at the end of his life and in the throws of dementia, but oh how he would have loved this man, who dearly loved his daughter, and shared her love of this big crazy family. Seven children within seven years of age!
We lived in a big old higgilly pigilty farmhouse in Vermont. Each of the many tiny bedrooms was full. And then....kids starting going off to boarding school and college. We quickly went from 7 to 2 in what felt like no time. It was at this time that our two youngest children switched schools to a small Independent school two of our older boys had attended. At one of the new student orientation school dinners, I was approached by a friend at the school who asked me if I would be willing to take an International student. It would "only be for one month, a child from Spain" she said. There was a binder of applications and I could choose my student. Faster that you can say "Her husband wasn't there and she decided to take an 8th child without discussing it with him" I was pawing through that binder!!! With five sons and two daughters, I knew for sure I was picking a GIRL!! And I found one, one that shared several interests with our own youngest daughter. I was going to pick HER!! But then I turned the page. And I saw a girl named Patty. (My beloved mother's name). And even better...she was a TWIN. I have twins. I get twins. I had to have the twin named Patty!! Deal Done. Signed on the dotted line. Give me Patty. And oh, yeah, I need to tell my husband...one more child. We just got one more child! YIPEEE!! Oh, and yes, I did read her interests on her application. Not one. Not one was similar to our daughter. I just picked a girl who doesn't particularly like sports and loves shopping, for a girl who was the captain of the soccer and basketball team and didn't know the names of any brands of clothes. (A Vermonter who didn't even understand how an department store worked. Truth.)
Fate would have it that picking an 8th child who shares the name of your mother and the birth story of your sons, is the very, very best way to bring a new member into your family. That day changed our lives forever. Our smart, beautiful, smiley, funny, laughing girl arrived a day or two before school started.
Our lives have changed forever. Our girls have become sisters. Our other kids have a new sister. Our family has a new Patty. And our daughter Courteney, has an entirely new and additional family in Spain.
The girls now go back and fourth every summer. There have been a total of 4 trips so far. Patty travels with our family and is completely and totally one of us. She has spent a summer with us in Michigan and gotten a Canadian stamp on her passport. Courteney travels to Spain where she is loved and cherished by her Spanish family. She not only has the most amazing Spanish parents, she also has a new twin brother, aunts and uncles, cousins, and abuelos. In fact, Courteney accompanied Patty on her high school class graduation trip to Ibiza (I know!!! What was I thinking?!?!) and the girls were lectured up and down on safety in both English and Spanish!!
I am eternally grateful to Courteney's Spanish parents who share their precious girl with us and treat our girl like their very own.