My first memory is of being in a Laundromat in Fairbanks. I was 3, and had been spirited by my mother from the relative comfort of New England to the wilds of Alaska. Freshly divorced, and with a typically 1970s sense of "Me-ness", she and her new, half-hippie, half-creepy boyfriend had found a rustic cabin deep in the woods for us to live in. And by rustic, I mean there was an outhouse.
At the Laundromat that day, I asked my mother if I could have a candy bar from the vending machine. It was the kind you don't often see anymore, with clear molded plastic levers that pull out only with some effort, and retract with a satisfying smack. But as usual she said no, I couldn't have any candy. My misty recollection is of feeling dejected, and moping over to the machine to stare wistfully at the chocolate within.
I pulled a lever in vain. Only it didn't lock up. Instead, it extended all the way out and deposited a candy bar in the machine's narrow mouth below. Toddler confusion met exhilaration as I pulled a different lever. More candy. I walked over to my mother with a package of Reese's peanut butter cups half eaten, a packet of M&M's hanging from my pocket, and a grin of the sort mostly limited to childhood. Surprised, she scolded me for having accepted money from a stranger to get the goods. Noooooo! Come with me! Come see!!!
By this time, other patrons had taken note of the faulty machine and a frenzy of theft was underway. With no attendant in sight, sugary bounty flowed freely. My mother had misgivings about letting me keep any of the candy, but she reports that the whole atmosphere of the place had turned so atypically joyous and light that it took hold of her. Petty morality be damned, we kept some of the sweets.
* * * * *
There's a point in life when you decide if you're lucky. For me, this was it. Not consciously, but ever since that day more than 30 years ago, I've had a persistent sense that when I least expect it, success might be wrested from the jaws of defeat.
My husband Lin and I are now completing the final stages of the surrogacy labyrinth, with twin boys expected in June. Throughout, we've become accustomed to hedging our bets, celebrating only after good news has been delivered unequivocally, and generally remaining stone-cold cautious.
And with good reasons: It took us much longer than usual to be matched with a surrogate, the costs regularly startled us even as we knew what to expect, and our first embryo transfer last summer ended in an early miscarriage. But oh, the energy we've deposited into all that wariness, on calibrating the line between positivity and all the possible caveats.
I'm done with all that now. Nature is doing its thing. The babies are gestating away, entering their third-trimester "bulk-up" stage. We have picked names and bandy them about to anyone who asks, and we've picked colors for the nursery. So we're getting the overpriced stroller, and the Boppies, and the baby books. We've done all we can, and now I'm counting on luck to carry us the rest of the way home.