I’m a mom, but motherhood came “late” for me, at 39. Until I had my son, I and my world (i.e. friends and family) began to wonder whether it would happen at all. The growing possibility that I would never be a parent meant I needed to come to terms with the idea. It flitted in and out of my awareness as I went on with the rest of my life, and then one day I came across a slender paperback book called, Miss Rumphius.
Written by Barbara Cooney, celebrated author and illustrator of a number of children’s books, Miss Rumphius tells the story of a woman who chose to travel the world and live in a house by the sea. It never says that she didn’t have children, but the message is clear. In fact, I think that it’s not said is what makes the book so wonderful: this is the story of a woman who is so much more than whether or not she chose to have a child (or marry!).
Miss Rumphius promises her grandfather that not only will she pursue her dreams of travel and a house by the sea, she will also do something to make the world more beautiful. So, after she has traveled world, made wonderful friends and happily settled in her seaside home, she keeps her promise by planting lupines across the countryside. Her neighbors call her the Lupine Lady.
I used to keep an extra copy of the book to share with friends as the situation arose. When I had my son, my own copy of Miss Rumphius became part of our picture book library, and we read it often. I wanted him to know, as I had learned, that raising a family is just one of many options we can choose as adults.