Well, when you sit down to write one of these pieces, you never know where it will lead. Right now what's on my mind is my wonderful family: where we've come from and where we're going. I am thinking about the deaths of my father and father-in-law all in one year (2007), and of the future with my mother and mother-in-law, two remarkable women whom I trust unequivocally. Right now I'm so very happy and optimistic about that future, but I do think about it and find it remarkable at how things have changed and have wondered at the differences in our generations.
I am a baby-boomer—57 (yikes!) years of age. In many ways, I believe we boomers have been a very blessed generation. We were the children of post-war, of back yard barbeques and stay-at-home moms. Think "Donna Reed," and "Father Knows Best," ("Honey, I'm home!"). Look at this picture-perfect Donna Reed family:
Face it, there were no lives as flawless as the ones depicted on the TV shows, but there were elements of that myth in the childhood V and I had.
In my own family, you had to find those mythical elements tucked around a father who regularly came home drunk and around the women calling our home, making my mother cry and eventually leading to their divorce. But, still, there was the "look" of sweet suburbia, with our mothers sitting in lawn chairs, ice cubes tinkling in ice tea glasses while they watched us play on expansive lawns.
Tell me this picture of my family doesn't look "Donna Reed Perfect!" That's me standing next to my Dad. This is before my sister came along (she's twelve years younger than me).
Many of us had parents who were the first in their families to achieve professions and college educations. In my family, my father (an attorney) was the first and only in his family to even think about college. He was from the farm and, come to think of it, not even his nieces and nephews continued their educations after high school, so post-secondary education was a new thing with that family.
My mother came from a poor, rural family and never finished high school. Her own father had died while she was an infant, and her mother and stepfather had a very practical, depression-era, rural approach to life. Frills did not factor into their lives because they had no experience with frills, having come from poverty. To them education beyond the basics was a frill (especially for women). Here is a picture of part of my mother's family in 1939. You can tell that they are hailing from far in the country. My mom is the little girl between her mother and stepfather in the front.
So the postwar boom time, with our new little house in a subdivision and built-in barbeque with patio (!) was really something in my Mom’s life—my Dad’s, too.
I am certain that my grandparents loved their children, but neither of my parents described a childhood that catered to their status as kids. They had responsibility early as members of country families with much to do to eke out a living. Believe me, my parents’ attitudes toward us kids was entirely different than their parents' parenting practices. I am certain that my grandmothers were amazed (but maybe not amused) by the lavish birthday parties (complete with small merry-go-round on one occasion) and piled-up Christmas gifts that my parents provided. My parents did all they could to be sure that their children had plenty (which we did) and that we achieved. All three of us have college degrees. My brother and I practice law together, and our sister is one of our paralegals.
I know this is a broad brush to use and not applicable to all, but I think that generally the rhythm of the white baby-boomer childhood was a departure from earlier generations--maybe easier? I cannot speak to African-American families back then, but cannot imagine that the experience was as pleasant. And, you know, life was not totally idyllic for V and me, either. I've already mentioned the dark side of my own little family. V was next door through all this, and I’ll let her expound on her own skeletons-in-the-closet, but they were there, too.
And, just as the beginning of our baby-boomer lives were unique to our times, we are now facing some challenges unique to our generation, as well, on the tail end. Both V and I are now facing caring for our mothers (and mother-in-law!), both our fathers having passed away. Our siblings (V's sister and my brother and sister, my sisters-in-law) are right there with us, commited to our mothers. I have shared with you my mother-in-law's homecoming to me, and we rejoice in that. I want to honor my mother and my mother-in-law for the care they have given me over the years--all my life from my own mother; for forty years from my mother-in-law.
In coming months I hope to share with you some of my mother's remarkable and courageous story of a young girl on her own at an age that we, in today's world, would not believe possible. And my mother-in-law's story of a young girl in an East-coast immigrant family who lost her mother at age twelve is equally incredible. I feel like I want to pay homage to these women--both strong in their Christian faith--who have been so important to me in my own life, and I want to share lessons I think are important for others, especially women.
So, bear with me. If you indicate interest, remember that you asked for it! I will be talking, from time to time, about these women who are important to me. And it will be between dreams about raising chickens and tooting my own horn for learning about the tractor, and who knows what else I might be ranting about!!
Till next time--C.
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