Kiki. That’s what they’d call me. Who? My massive tribe of foster kids.

Big kids. Teenagers. Attitudes up the wazoo. Pains in the tushes. Obnoxiously selfish. Teenagers. Mine, all mine.

Utopia 2.0.

At 44, I’ve figured it out. Shit, it took me a long time but I know. I know with every ounce of my being what I want in life. To the core, I know this is right. I know. I so f*cking know. My heart is full just thinking about it. What I want and need most in this world follows:

A big house – nothing spectacular – just big enough for us. A house kissed with a colorful past – a story to continue for generations. Lived in – with all the bumps and bruises that people have. Cozy. Fun. Full of music and life. Full of laughter – new, genuine laughter. Full of tears. Full of whatever comes its way. Safe. Safe for those fabulous teenage kids who need a place to crash… permanently, semi-permanently, whatever works for them. Safe for them to share the shit they’re going through and not be judged and juried.

I want to hear them. I want to hear – really hear – them. Their thoughts, their dreams, their scares, their happies, their sads, their everything. In case they didn’t know it before, they know it now. They’re wanted. They’re needed. They’re meant to be. They’re important.

They’ll come home—whether it’s been an hour or a year, it’s their home and they know it—drop their stuff on the floor, kick off their shoes and tell Kiki about their day. Or maybe they won’t. Maybe they need alone time. That’s cool. If that’s their safe, Kiki gets it.

So, yeah. I’m Kiki – the middle-aged, rosy-cheeked quirky chick they live with – well, me and my full-time tribe.

Drama Club performance. Baseball tournament. Science fair. Quidditch match. When they look up, they see someone out there, someone who came to watch them perform. Someone proud of their every accomplishment. Someone smiling back, with a little wink to let them know, “you’ve got this, and we’re here to cheer you on and hug you when it’s over.” Someone who, 20 years from now, they come home to for holidays and vacations and just drop-in moments. Someone who they know will always be there. Someone who opened a big, welcoming door for them.

It’s funny the hints you get in life. When Ashly was in high school, her friends loved me – they did. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t a mom – well that, and at 35, I looked 18. Even had an older sister of one of them tell their mom they all got into a car with another teenager when it was supposed to be an adult… but it was me, and I was 38, and I digress.

So yeah, Ashly’s friends always loved tagging along with whatever I was up to, and along the way, telling me the good, bad and ugly of their day-to-day lives – many times sharing the not-so-great stuff they were going through at home. They didn’t want me to solve their problems; they wanted me to listen to them. They wanted us to be equals.

We even had our share of kids who wanted to move in with us, and we’d have taken them in a heartbeat. Ours was a safe, kind (but extremely firm) and fun home, and we loved those kids.

Today, those kids always message me on Mother’s Day (can we say swoon, cuz it always gets me). Swoon.

I still have the younger generation reaching out to me for advice – all the time. I am no one who should be dispensing legit advice, but I listen, and I don’t judge. And I get a kick out of them wanting to share their ups, downs and woes with me.

All I’ve ever wanted in my life was a house full of kids and dogs. Well, I didn’t get to be a mom, and I’m patiently waiting for more pups to come my way. But I think that “me not getting to be a mom” thing was also a hint. I’m too selfish for babies. I like them when they can wipe their own asses and brush their own teeth.

We’re not rich. But we’re here, and we’re stable, and we hang Christmas stockings for everyone in our home. It seems to me this should be such an easy goal to accomplish… I wouldn’t even know where to begin… wiggle my nose and a big house full of kids appears?

You know, my real name just happens to be Mary. If that ain’t a hint??

Well, I guess the question is… do pipe dreams come true?

Kat? Yes, Kat. I think they’d call me Kat.