My dream today… single motherhood, biological fathers and grown-up choices, oh my.

My son’s dad isn’t the man who made him. This isn’t a secret from anyone who’s known me for longer than five minutes, nor from my son. But it’s one of those life-shaping, world-determining facts. Not something that plagues/rules my days—but something that has definitely steered the course. Like being white and born in a developed nation; I don’t actively think about it, but things would be very different if it weren’t the case.

My son is eight, he’s not stupid, and he’s always been told the truth. So, he’s becoming accordingly curious about his genetic father and threw down a serious load of questions over supper the other night.

“Why didn’t I have a dad before we moved to England?”

Well, buddy, that’s a great question. You know how we’ve talked about your dad is your dad, and another man’s sperm made you a few years before you met him? You had a biological father, that’s different than having a dad. It just took a while for you to meet your dad, that’s all.

“Why didn’t he marry you?”

We barely knew each other when I got pregnant with you, not nearly long enough to consider getting married. People have babies without getting married all the time, one shouldn’t determine the other. You are so very special, and special and important decisions had to be made so that everything worked out best for everyone. Getting married just because his sperm made you wasn’t the best decision.

“How long did you know him before you started… you know?”

Having sex?


Not long. Not the best decision I’ve ever made. A very irresponsible decision actually.

“How long?”

We’d known each other about a month before I got pregnant with you. That was a very thoughtless choice, but one I’m very glad I made because you’re here now.

“Why don’t I remember him? Did I ever meet him?”

My family was halfway across the country when I found out I was pregnant with you. It was best for everyone that I was closer to them, so I moved back. That’s why he wasn’t around. He drove down when you were three days old and stayed for a couple of days. You were an itty bitty newborn and wouldn’t remember that.

“So, he just didn’t want to know me? He didn’t want to marry you?”

Honey, this is a very big set of very wise questions. And I want to give you the best answers possible. Don’t ever be afraid to ask me anything, but please bear with me while I give you what I know to be true… It’s not that he didn’t want to know you. I firmly believe that he did want to know you. It’s just that he was really far away. It’s a big country, you know? I don’t know about marriage, but he would have lived with me if I’d wanted that, I don’t know. It’s not something I wanted, or even considered. I wanted you, I wanted to do what was best for you. And making someone be around, just because their sperm made you, never seemed like the best thing to do. Does that make sense?

Long, thoughtful pause… “Yeah, I think so. Can I see pictures of him again?”

Yeah, buddy. Finish your supper and we’ll look at pictures all you want.

“What’s he like, Mom? Is he nice?”

YES! He’s very nice. He’s very smart and funny. Obviously, since he helped make you, he’s totally awesome. He’s handsome and kind and thoughtful and smart… just like you… just like your dad. How lucky are you? You got the best of both worlds. A great set of sperm made your DNA and then a great man loved you enough to choose to be your dad.

“I love you, mom.”

I love you more, buddy…. To the moon and back, bigger than the whole wide world.

*My dream, today… to do this right.*


when I first met him...

The dreams of Deven, the server.

Today I set out to find my first dreamer. I went to the beach with romantic ideas of sitting, having a heart-to-heart with a stranger, learning the inner depths of their soul while watching the waves crash.

I took one look at the madhouse of a perfect beach day and the overcrowded, kid-infested nightmare and drove on. I thought I’d go to Starbucks, walked in and it was a ghost town. Then I went to a bar, at three in the afternoon.

Every bar I’ve ever been to or worked in, at three in the afternoon, has one sad alcoholic who is holding down the stool closest to the barmaid, staring at a piece of wall while sucking down their drink… what their dreams must be like. I imagined the dirty edges of that guy’s dream, I wanted to talk to that guy.

Instead, the bar was almost empty except for a few couples having lunch and good conversation. Evidently even the alcoholics go to the beach on a beautiful Saturday in Santa Cruz County.

I went out on the patio to enjoy the sunshine myself, ordered some onion rings and hoped someone would come out there and sit by themselves.

I looked over each shoulder, and then there he was. My server was sitting at a table in the corner of the patio, starting to fold napkins and roll silverware. Not what I had in mind, but I didn’t have the luxury of waiting all day for someone to drift in on their own and here was this kid all by himself.

“Hey, I’m working on an installment project where I’m going to talk to strangers about their hopes and dreams. I used to wait tables. If I help you with your side work, can I pick your brain for a while?”

Who’s gonna turn down help with their work, right? So I started getting to know Deven. He’s 19, and that kid works hard.

One of the things that interests me most about this project is to see how people initially answer the question. What does “dream” mean to them?

Deven’s first reaction was what I would expect from a 19 year-old with his whole future ahead of him. He started talking about what he might study in college, what he wants from a career. The answer to that is that he basically isn’t sure yet, “but I don’t wanna do the same thing as everyone else.” Man, do I get that.

I started asking him about his life and his family and what’s important to him every day. I think hopes and dreams lie in the little crevices of life, the ones we sometimes forget to explore.

He had just moved to Santa Cruz, he drove about 20 minutes to wait tables at this bar/restaurant. But here’s where Deven gets complex. Before he moved to Santa Cruz, he lived two hours away… and he still commuted to Santa Cruz to work. Two hours, each way, five days a week; because the tips were so much better than the small town he lived in.

When I asked him about working through high school, he said he’d always worked, even before high school. “I’m not scared of hard work. My mom’s always been an alcoholic and my dad owns a landscaping business. I’ve always helped out my family.” Because Deven is awesome.

He maybe wants to go to culinary school. He wants to start having babies when he’s 27, he wants to have “thousands in the bank” first, and he wants to give everything he has back to God.

His eyes are the color of ambition and he taught me how to origami a napkin like a pro.

Then something happened that I’d never even thought about: he started asking about me. He asked what my hopes and dreams were. I laughed and said that’s the whole reason I’m doing this; I’m not sure I know. He said, “Well thanks for the help! I’ve never rolled silverware this fast in my life. One minute I’m serving you onion rings and the next minute I’m having a cool conversation.”

Exactly, Deven. Exactly.

Deven's hardworking hands with our napkins and silverware.