By Erin Mantz
I wake up worrying what will happen if I ever need someone to give me bone marrow or give me a kidney. Someone like a sibling. If faced with a life or death situation, the angst and longing I feel as an only child could strike me even harder. I am an only child. But pieces of me, literally and figuratively, are strewn across the state of Illinois in the form of long-lost, lost and almost-never-found half and step brothers and sisters – nine to be exact.
On any given day, one or more are on my mind, though unfortunately, they’re not really in my life.
Growing up, I don’t recall being terribly unhappy because I was an only child with divorced parents. But I did feel like part of my identity may very well be missing. I was sure I should have a sibling, and convinced myself that if only I had a sister, every change I kept going through – parents’ divorces and remarriages, stepfamilies, moves, school changes – I could sail through much more smoothly. All my friends seemed to have busy houses with sisters and brothers flying through. (I was, after all, living in a Chicago neighborhood full of big Catholic and Irish families). I felt different as I began my early years of elementary school. I was convinced my “only child” status was why.
The winter I turned eight, I got a new pair of lavender roller skates, won an essay contest at my school, and got “siblings.” With a new stepfather came a package deal: I gained a stepsister four years older, and a stepbrother my age. They moved in with us (a rather unusual arrangement for kids to live with their dad almost full-time, instead of their mom, back the early Eighties), and for the first time in my life, I felt like I was part of a real family. I was never lonely or alone anymore. I couldn’t believe my luck. Continue Reading…