Providence Journal Photo/Sandor Bodo
West Warwick, Rhode Island
Providence Journal Photo/Sandor Bodo
West Warwick, Rhode Island
I am way too young to be posting about Empty Nest Syndrome. I’m also way too young to be on blood pressure meds, way too young to be finding gray hairs in my eyebrows, and way too young to be getting into movies on the senior citizen discount. (Without even carding me, the nerve!) I just wanted to make that perfectly clear.
But I’m seeing some suspicious signs of the syndrome, anyway, that are beginning to concern me:
1) There are no children in the home. None.
Not mine, not other people’s. To the best of my recollection, I did not tell anyone at all this week to pick up her stuff, shut the door, or take it outside. Except maybe the dog on that last one (and by the way…why am I talking to the dog?)
2) The milk I poured on my cereal came out in little clots today. That gallon jug apparently expired a month ago. We’ve since discovered 19 other items in the refrigerator and pantry dated 2012. Our Costco card may be the next thing to expire.
3) My body rhythms seem horribly out of whack; I’m sleeping in until 9:30 or 10:00 some mornings. What happened to the cheery door slams, the morning invasions to borrow my bathroom scale, shoes, or favorite top?
Yesterday I discovered and set the alarm feature on my 2-year old iPhone.
4) I also discovered the laundry room floor the other day while vacuuming. Turns out, it’s a warm saltillo tile that matches our adjoining kitchen. Somebody thought ahead.
5) Our oven has been pulled out of the wall for repair work for a month, now. This has not put the slightest knot in my knickers. It hasn’t been used since DD made cake balls with her friends during Christmas break 2 months ago. I noticed it was pulled out yesterday after venturing into the kitchen to empty the dishwasher of 28 coffee mugs and spoons.
When I was little, I used to wonder (as many kids do) if I were adopted. No, I take that back. I used to be quite sure I was adopted. To my childish eyes, the signs were all there. I was the only one that _______ (had a different hair color, had nightmares, got punished, yada, yada)…so therefore, I must’ve been adopted or at least swapped at birth. Decades later, those eyes still see the differences, but now I’m able to acknowledge the truth. I am a little green alien in disguise.
In my family, I am second born of four sisters, and three of us live within 40 minutes of our folks, so our kids have had the unusual opportunity to grow up somewhat close to cousins and grandparents, which has been mostly a good thing. In a family that’s always catered to the baby (my mother’s position growing up), it’s an interesting study in family dynamics (to me a least) to note our respective proximity to the parental homestead as adults. Firstborn sister (Sister #1) lives the furthest away, several states away, in fact. Sister #2 (that’s me) lives 40 minutes away. Sister #3 (baby for 10 years) and Sister #4 (the little caboose) live 10 minutes and 5 minutes away from the folks, respectively. Sister #3, newly remarried, is currently considering buying a house in my folks’ neighborhood (less than 5 minutes away).
Growing up, my parents held to a strange rule that if two or more children were fighting, the eldest was always responsible for the ruckus, and so she was the one punished (yelled at, spanked or belted, and sent to her room). It didn’t take too long for my brilliant older sister to realize the safest place to be was alone in her bedroom with an interesting pile of books. I don’t have too many memories of our relating to each other during childhood, sadly enough. She fell into a serious depression in her teens, which only deepened that isolation…and not too long after went off to college.
Anyway, her wise defection pretty much left Sister #3 and and me to figure things out, dynamically speaking, as Sister #4 didn’t come on the scene until I was a teenager. I, not quite as bright as my older sister, did not quite ‘get’ the fact that she’d bailed from a no-win family dynamic, so I blindly battled on, yoyo-ing between the idealistic notions I cherished of my parents’ sense of honor and truth and justice…and, alternately, the firm certainty that I was adopted.
Idealist that I am, I think I’ve spent most of my life trying to understand the weird dynamic within my family so that I could work around it (younger years) or even perhaps enlighten some of them with what was wrong about it (later years). Decades later, I’m here to tell you that second bit doesn’t work, and I no longer try to understand or justify a status quo that is just plain wrong. I did pick up several coping tricks along the way, though, and those are probably apparent in my writings from time to time. One is constant observation. Another is developing a great disguise (Normal Family Member). A third is not talking too much, though that’s the one I have the most trouble with, still.
We were celebrating an extended family birthday last Sunday in the serene country club environment that my elderly parents prefer for such things, and I was listening to Sister #4′s entertaining tale of someone who’d smoked for 60-odd years, and quit, cold-turkey, with no adverse effects. Across the damask tablecloth I asked her, “Did you ever try smoking?”
And there I was again…one slip of the tongue and my Normal Family Member disguise peeled back to reveal the real me.
“Did you ever try smoking?”
As Sister #4′s jaw hit the table and I heard her accompanying “Uhh!” I was reminded of something she’d said in her teens…”Lips that touch alcohol will never touch mine.” That ardent vow evidently applied to the taint of cigarettes, too. I could feel myself starting to turn green, as I admitted to trying two cigarettes from a Marlboro pack back in high school. And as my antennae sprouted, I glanced at Dad, holding court at the head of a 12-foot long table, his three daughters, their spouses, and multiple offspring flowing outward from him. I asked him the same question.
“I did for two weeks once, in high school; I had to learn how for the lead part in our school play.”
My antennae did not go down, and I could now feel myself growing that third eye again. Dad’s admission, while enlightening after all these years, obviously didn’t ‘count’ as mere curiosity and experimentation. In fact, it came close to sounding even dutiful and responsible. Sister #3 was at the buffet table, but I all ready knew she’d never experimented. My mom was sitting to my right, but I didn’t need to ask her, either. I’d all ready heard the stories about how awful it was in her secretarial days having to work in an Office With Smokers. (Mom got married at 19 and became a stay-at-home-mom 62 years ago, so that experience was limited.)
Mom had been raised in a family where smoking, drinking, dancing, and going to movies were sinful. Card-playing and gambling, too. She, (and Dad), raised us with the same certain knowledge. No…we weren’t Baptist (though I started telling schoolmates we were because it was much easier than explaining what we really were–Plymouth Brethren–which is like Baptist on steroids. If you said “Plymouth Brethren” they’d launch into all kinds of questions like if you were Quaker or if you used electricity…if you said “Baptist” they just nodded their heads and felt sorry for you.)
Speaking of Baptist (and pardon my ADD), there is a wine I do like now, mostly for the label, called Wicked Middle Sister. I was Wicked Middle Sister in a family of 3 closely spaced sisters plus a ‘little caboose’ sister ten years later. I am the rebel child of the family. And if you knew me at all, this would likely send you into paroxysms of laughter. I never experimented with drugs (took a pass when offered), never tried alcohol until my twenties (didn’t much care for it), and married while still a virgin in my late twenties. I’ve seen exactly three R-rated movies in my lifetime, and only liked one of them. But here’s the thing…I was the first one in the family to get pierced ears (at college), and so eventually led the other three sisters (and my mother) down that dark and twisted path. Growing up, I was also the only one to sprain an ankle by playing Tarzan on the curtain rod during my nap, the only one to suffer a concussion after thinking it might be cool to ride my tricycle down our steep driveway, and the only one the nosy neighbor across the street ever called my mother about after seeing me on the rooftop of our house. I’ve also found out in recent years that none of my siblings ever walked across the top of the swing set or coasted their bikes downhill with their feet on the handlebars. But, as you can see, these are not really rebellious behaviors, just things it never occurred to the rest of the sisters to do. That is simply because they are not little green aliens in disguise.
This post is for the other moms–the ones whose children don’t, won’t, or can’t say the words, “Happy Mother’s Day.” Maybe your kids are physically challenged…maybe they are autistic or have borderline personalities…maybe they are estranged, or even dead. I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day, though I know even your happiest one is one probably tinged with wistful thoughts of what might have been. And I’ll tell you I know you have likely put far more into your mothering than the average mom, with fewer earthly rewards perhaps, and I’ll send you a huge hug for that. Your reward is in heaven, it will be eternal, and it will come with a smile from the One who has taught you about unconditional love. That love relationship never wavers, never wanes, never dies.
This blog is here because:
1) I wanted an anonymous gravatar to comment on Regretsy last year
2) I acquired a WordPress blog in the process
3) I might start liking writing again
4) it’s cheaper to write about my strange life than pay a therapist
5) and maybe it can be more humorous
What that tells you about me:
1) I’m anonymous, cheap, and conflicted
2) humor (and prayer) are presently holding off my lobotomy
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