Wednesday, September 22, 2010

in a mood to write

Growing up I never met parents like mine.  When you meet them you can see right away how different in personality they are and you can’t help but wonder how they met and married.  But they did and over the course of twenty years they did it six times and had six kids—speaking in 7th grade terms of course.   At the core they are very similar, finding purpose with everything…wasting nothing.  We were a humble family, not to say poor, just humble.  We always had sturdy shoes and a heavy coat, and please note I didn’t say stylish sturdy shoes and a stylish heavy coat.    

Both of my parents are hard workers. They are both fairly serious and smart, like encyclopedias.  Ask either of them about history or literature or the why the check engine light is on in the car and they will give you an answer.  I didn’t inherit that, by the way. They laugh but are not silly.  This is irony at its best as  their children are silly and cannot be serious.   My mother is cute and little and she’s really quiet, she is an observer.  Only once have I seen her with all 15 of her grandchildren together half of whom were taller than she is and I think it might have been one of the happiest days in her life.    

Most of my childhood  I spent with my mother and my younger brother. I was always grateful for this as truthfully I was fearful of my strict father.  The older kids were growing, growing, gone, but home enough to eat at the table often.    We ate really healthy (thank you, mother!) and I can count on one hand the times we ate out.  Once my Uncle Jim came to visit and took us to McDonald’s. I ate a hamburger and my brother ordered a Big Mac and large coke- I was jealous for years.    During those years time went by slowly, I devoured books and played a thousand songs on the organ in living room.   We had a big old house with lots of hiding places.  You could never be bored as there was always stuff to find.  One summer I dug through a closet that I never  realized was there and found a box of  old craft magazines.  And that was my summer, me and those magazines.  The upstairs of our house had no heat, again not because we were poor but because that is the way the house was built 150 years before and that is the way it was.  Have you ever slept in New England in January in a room with no heat?  It’s freakin cold!  If you wanted a new bedspread then you got an old army blanket from the attic, that is just the way it was.

There was always a sewing machine on the dining room table, as well as half finished projects.  We always had graham crackers and unpasteurized milk.  There was always a job list that needed doing but we (my brother and I) were always off finding more interesting things to fill our time.  We pretty much got to do whatever we wanted, at home that is.  We hiked throughout the property year round and built forts and went sledding down the biggest hills you could imagine.   We knew when we trekked back to the house as darkness approached that my mother would be sitting in her spot in the kitchen window and she wouldn’t ask why we didn’t put the dishes away or if we did our homework. I realize now that her love and trust for us was deeper than yelling about chores.  Maybe it made her happy that we were doing the same things she did as a kid in Connecticut.  Or maybe she was happy to be in a quiet house blasting Neal Diamond and cutting potatoes for stew.

One day after I grew up I met my husband.  And then I met his parents.  Though they are very different they are also very much the same in their way of thinking.  One day we flew with his mother and stepfather to Nantucket.  If you met his stepfather Joe you might think he was broke and needed to use some steel wool on his fingernails.  But in reality he owned the plane he flew us in and to be honest he owned the airline.  In Nantucket Joe bought a pair of pants and a typewriter at the local thrift shop. Only he forgot the pants on the store counter.  He couldn’t stop thinking about those darn $2 pants and how they don’t make them anymore so the next day he flew back to get them.  In his airplane.  That probably burned 100 gallons of fuel to retrieve thrift store pants.  That is when I realized I really and truly loved Ken.  Not because of the flying and boating to fun places but because of Joe and his grease stained fingernails.  Growing up I was embarrassed by my upbringing.  I wanted flashy and a full stock of prepackaged snacks and a television with 50 channels.  It wasn’t until I met Ken that I realized I didn’t really want that.  I wanted sturdy shoes and a warm coat all along.

12 comments:

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

How interesting! I've loved hearing about the way you grew up and how it affects your life now. I got married so young that I feel like most of my memories of the past are about raising my sons...and growing up with them! I've always lived in the south and have thought about writing some of my memories. You write well enough to write a book! You really should, my friend! ♥

Dina said...

That was a really touching and sincere post. Thankyou for sharing your paast with us.

The Dadman Diaries said...

Damn you. The only time I really ever tear up is if I get stuck watching the end of a Little House on the Prairie episode....

Leila said...

Now I call that a post. *

I can definitely relate to your parents (although mine are nothing like that). But Joe! How funny! That is just so darn funny about the pants!

I agree with Lavender Dreamer that you should write a book, but I'm afraid that people will think you made that up about flying in to get the pants.

Life is so funny.

*I love all your other posts too, don't get me wrong.

Dawn said...

I love personal stories like this! Thanks for sharing personal memories!

Andi said...

I love that story. I love hearing your history and glimpsing what makes you "you."

Thanks for sharing.

UJ said...

I'm so glad we're related........

Prairie Rose said...

I smiled as I read this.
What a beautiful post.
Very close to the way my husband and I were both raised.
I,like you,when younger thought my parents were weird and wanted new,nice things (it wasnt till my first job at 16 that I bought clothes for the first time that werent from a thrift store)
But,now my husband and I wouldnt do much differently then our parents when we have kids of our own.
Our parents were simple,but they got the important things right,Jesus loves you,always tell the truth,respect your elders and always wash and re-use your ziploc baggies:)

Jemm said...

Awww...what a great story. No wonder you're anxious to move back. I felt the same way about my upbringing, embarrassed. The difference in our stories is it sounds like your parents had no shame in their frugality. My parents were always searching for somthing better. What we had was never good enough. It's sad.

Lindsey in AL said...

Loved this! Was part of it posted somewhere else a few years ago? I could swear I've read the third paragraph before, seems like it was maybe a link from another blog or a guest post somewhere. Maybe it was even on an email list. Hmmm. Weird. This is not much like my childhood, but also totally like it.

LB's Sewing Sanity said...

Very well written little sister...seems like just yesterday. Ironically, I often think of that same McDonald's dinner w/Uncle Jim....it was such a HUGE treat. I too remember all those times on the farm as we used to call it, and wish we could turn back the clock.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post. :) Thank you for having the courage and taking the time to share that. I relate in my own way.