From the time Ian was born, Chris and I knew we needed to pick a guardian for him, in case, you know, the unspeakable happened.   When Hugh and Malcolm came along, we still needed to pick a guardian.  But now the job was three times harder, because whoever inherited our kids in the event of our untimely demise would have to be OK with raising three kids.  All boys.

At various times, we had verbal agreements with some excellent choices.  My brother and his wife (but they were with the Foreign Service , then had 3 kids of their own), my best friend and her husband (but they live on the opposite coast), and some dear friends, a local couple (but their own kids are older than ours, and it seemed unfair to saddle them with our younger trio when they finally reached empty nesthood).

We discussed this dilemma occasionally, agreeing that whomever we chose had to be:

Not old, preferably Presbyterian or similar denomination, smart, fun, good with money, quick to laugh, slow to anger, amenable to travel, especially to interesting places.  Also, preferably, someone who loved books, movies, writing, and Scrabble, like us.

Someone who would ensure the kids saw their relatives often.  Someone who would take them on walks, teach them about baseball, and pass on the wisdom that home-made cookies are much better than store-bought.  Someone who would introduce them to Pippi,  Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, and Wilbur, Charlotte, and Fern, as well as Pod and Arietty.  Yes, definitely, someone who would read to them every night.

The guardians we sought would not be into NASCAR.  They would be unlikely to move to the third world for work, which would be cool in terms of exposing our boys to other cultures, but uncool in terms of isolating them.  Our dream guardians would not dress the kids in tiny wife-beaters or Crocs.  No mullets or clothing with cartoon graphics.  Our guardians would choose Salman Rushdie over Rush Limbaugh, the New York Times over the New York Post, Europe over EuroDisney.  

We looked at each other and said “My God, we have just described ourselves.”

And who would be, if not us, exactly like us?  Nobody, that’s who.

In the words of our friend Shannon, a mother of six, ”You can’t delude yourselves into thinking you’ll  find perfect clones to serve as guardians.   You have to realize that whoever you choose will be different from you.  The trick is to find somone similar enough that you’ll be assured your kids will be in good hands.   Someone who loves them, and has good judgment.  In the end, that’s the only important thing.”

She was right.   When we finally abandoned the illusion that we could find our exact duplicates, we made a choice, wrote a will, and made it legal.  This was when Ian was 16, mind you, almost old enough to his brothers’ guardian himself.  Gambling this long is not something I recommend, but fate smiled upon us, and fortunately, our kids were not thrown upon the mercy of Orphans’ Court.

We chose someone who lives nearby, is a blood relative, loves our boys, would move into our house if we shuffled off this mortal coil, would keep the kids in the same schools, and, as added incentive, would actually have a shorter commute to his own job if he lived here.  Thank you to Chris’s brother Ken for agreeing to be the guardian.  I can’t believe it took us so long.

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