Saturday, June 23, 2012

It Was Wonderful to See You!

It was the fourth of three outfits I’d tried on.
“That’s cute,” my mom said.
“I don’t want to look like I’m trying too hard.”
She smiled.
“Should I wear my hair straight? Or curly?”
“Curly,” Mom said. 
“I wish I didn’t have to wear these damn glasses.”
“I’m sure most people your age have them.”
Outfit on, hair and make-up done.  One last check of Facebook on my friend Mel’s page to make sure the event was still on, then head out to the impromptu class reunion.
I walked in not knowing what to expect.  It had been over 35 years since I had last seen many of the people who had RSVP’d to the event.    I stepped up to the bar and looked around and recognized NO ONE!!! 
“Are you with the class reunion?” The bartender asked.
“Yeah,” I replied, ready to turn and run.
“They are on the other side.”
A deep breath escapes my body.  I round the bar and there they are, the faces from my past.  We’ve changed, but in their eyes I see the boys and girls of my youth.
I make the rounds.  I hear the stories; the marriages, the kids, the divorces and the deaths.  We reminisce about the good times and the bad.  We talk about the classmates we’ve lost, all too young.
Each person had a story, the story of their life.  Each was unique, but there was always that underlying similarity.  We’d grown older.  We’d lived our lives.  We’d struggled, we’d failed, we’d succeeded and we’d survived. 
It was wonderful catching up, but so hard to get around to everyone.  My best friend from childhood was there with her new husband, as was my favorite cousin who was a year behind me all through school.  Close friends and passing acquaintances filled the outdoor area.  
Someone thought to bring a yearbook and a couple of times I had to put the name to the face from the pages of the chronicles of our youth.
Laughter filled the night as we reminisced about our past and chatted about our future. 
It was late when I got home after dropping two of the girl’s at their hotel. 
“So did you have fun?” A voice came from the darkness of my mother’s room.
“I did,” I said.  “You know how sometimes you don’t see someone for years and then when you get together it feels like yesterday?”
“That’s how it was.”
I’m so glad we took the opportunity to gather together. 
Life is short and every aspect of our life is important. 
We can’t have a future without celebrating our past.
 So, to all my friends that came out, it was wonderful seeing you and let’s not make it so long between get-together’s.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Does It Have To Be Either Or ???

I have been reading lately about the stay at home Mom vs. the working Mom. Since I’ve been both I felt I might be able to help with the discussion.   
Both are hard work. 
When the kids were little, I stayed home and it was like I was a freaking day camp counselor.  Monday was library story hour, Tuesdays and Thursdays we’d head to the pool for swim lessons, Wednesday was Dreher Zoo for kids’ days and Fridays we went to the beach.  Occasionally we would head out to one of the many parks in the area and have a picnic. 
We’d head home for lunch and the kids would nap while I did the needed house work.  My sister once gave me a plaque that said, ‘My house is clean enough to be healthy, but dirty enough to be happy.’  Then came play time. Daniel would play computer games and the girls usually played dress up or Barbie.  At 4:00, I would start supper.  I always had family dinners at 5:30 just like Mom.  I loved those times, with Kirk listening as the kids told about their day.
As each kid went off to school, the schedules changed a little, but it was basically busy mornings and working afternoons.  I got involved in PTA, was a room Mom, and volunteered for field tips.  It was my job.  I didn’t get performance assessments, I didn’t get raises or bonuses, but I got hugs and kisses and I was there to kiss boo boos and hug hurts away.
When the kids went to middle school, I went to work.  I worked at a Barnes and Noble in the morning so I would be home in the afternoon for dinner and bedtime.  The juggling involved was sometimes overwhelming.  Get home, make dinner, spend time with family while doing household chores, read the kids a book before bed and then hugs and kisses before falling into my own bed, completely exhausted.
High school came and they needed me less so I took a job at an unfurnished furniture store.  It was small and family run; I felt it was a great fit.  I still rushed out the door at 4 to be home in time for dinner and evenings with family.  With an early quitting time, I was able to make the tennis matches, drama productions and softball games followed by family dinner at the local sports bar.
When the older kids went to college, I quit working and decided to volunteer at Quantum House in West Palm Beach.  It is much like a Ronald McDonald House, where families stay while their children are hospitalized.  I was there for six months when they offered me a job.  And I loved it.  Helping families in need somehow fulfilled that part of being a Mother that I missed.  I set the routine.  Sundays I would cook meals for the week.  Spaghetti sauce and stews would be put into the freezer.  Laundry, ironing and outfits were hung for the week. 
Then we lost four children in one month.  They ranged in age from 2 to 16 years of age.  I would come home crying.  By this time each of our kids had graduated from college and Kirk said we didn’t need the extra money so if I wanted to stay home we’d be okay.  I thought long and hard before deciding to once again work at home. 
Someone once asked me what I do all day.    I say I write every morning and then I make sure everything is taken care of so when Kirk gets home we can just enjoy our life.  Lawn care, deliveries, dinner, laundry, family gatherings, and a whole assortment of jobs and chores make up my day. 
I have lived both sides of this issue and each is equally hard.  We women live with enough guilt about our decisions to have to defend them constantly to the press, to our families and to each other.  We need to support one another, stop pointing fingers, and stop reading those ridiculous studies that say one way is better than the other. 
 Maybe the men who execute these studies should take the money they invested in them and divide it up among women with families so they can take a two week all expenses paid vacation. It would be a better use of the money, because seriously we women don’t care; we are all working and are just too damn tired.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

It’s the Little Things

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about all those singular moments that make up a life time.  The birth of your children, marriage, or losing a parent.  When you look back over your life these are the things that jump out, they are like the peaks on an echocardiogram…straight line, blip, straight line, blip. 
But recently on one long drive from my home in South Florida to my mother’s home in Ohio I came across some events that made me realize, sometimes it’s the little things.
It started when I was driving the first leg of my journey from West Palm to Greensboro to meet Kirk at the Georgia house.  (I drove up a couple days early and he flew in later.  It saves on his vacation days and hey, it works). 
 I decided to take the back roads up through northern Florida and southern Georgia.  Me, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts and various other country friends.  My boys and I were cruising up 441 and I drove by acres of tobacco fields.  But there, right in the middle of the sea of green was about an acre of sunflowers.  They were tall and as the bright afternoon sun hit the yellow of the flowers, a brilliant glow reflected off.  It was an amazing sight.  I pulled my car over and sat and enjoyed the wonderful gift. 
A few hours later I made the final turn towards the lake.  I came up over a ridge and looked out over the vast rolling hills that lay in the valley below me.  The sun was on the horizon and there was a light mist rising from the trees.  Again I pulled over and just sat, enjoying the beauty that nature provides.  
A couple days later, Kirk and I were sitting on the back deck, watching a heard of deer cross the golf course behind the cottage and stroll down to a small clover field just at the edge of the woods.  We sat watching, quietly enjoying the view when a humming bird flew up next to where we were sitting and fluttered stationary for what seemed like twenty seconds.
On my trip from Georgia to Ohio I saw acres of farmland, farmers out on tractors, working their fields.  I saw a horse running full out across a pasture, the wind blowing it’s mane up in the air.   I giggled like a school girl imaging it’s joy at just running free.
As I turned into my old neighborhood, I saw my parents home, the one we’ve lived in for over 57 years.  The familiarity always makes me stop and smile. 
I sat by my father’s grave and chatted for awhile.
And as I got into the car to drive the 18 hours back home, I was excited about what wonderful sights I might see and I realized sometimes it’s the little things that make up a lifetime.