this was written in 1999. i was living at st. teresa in my family's old and falling apart beach cottage as we were looking for a house in tallahassee. i was in that house by myself with three children under the age of 5 for 4 days a week all by myself (adam would come down on the weekends. his new job at gto was just beginning and it was too much to add an hour commute each way on to his workday. so he stayed with my parents for the weeknights.)
so just me, a computer, and a dial up connection to the internet. i had not learned to google search yet. didn't know about things like blogs. but i emailed things i wrote out to a small group of friends and family. and i wrote a lot during those days.
i thought i had lost all of the little email journal entries. but we just cleaned off an old computer and there they were in a file on that computer. and it was hilarious and heart wrenching to read them all again. hilarious cause i still crack myself up. heart wrenching because it was an entirely simpler season of life. stay at home/beachhouse mom with three young children and now i am mom with the empty nest about to drop on my head. i couldn't have imagined what the next two decades would hold for me... or maybe i did get a glimpse of it now.
mostly it is a glimpse of how good God has been to me. in every season.
i am going to publish all of the essays on to this blog in the coming up months. mostly so they aren't lost again. and now my kids can read about these days (now that most of them can read.) abut mostly because reading them makes me remember those glorious days (that didn't feel so glorious most of the time.)
let's start with one of my favorites. mostly because it shows my brilliance (well, my grandmother's brilliance if we are being entirely accurate.) and because it has come true. someone asked me last night, "so, you have always been a teacher?" and i said, "yes... well, except i took a little break for over a decade." and this essay clearly shows that i saw that entire conversation WAY before it took place (proving that i should have been the new dr. who.)
#10 A NEW COAT AND SINGING IN THE CHOIR
(written sometime in the winter of 1999)
The two most important lessons about marriage and motherhood were taught to me by my beloved grandmother. One piece of advice was given in direct response to a question that I asked her and one was just a random comment that struck me as funny and then as I thought more about it, I realized that it was the purest form of wisdom and sage advice that I had ever heard. And since you are my dear, dear friends (or better yet since I happen to have your e- mail address), I will share them now with you…
First, the effortless one to ease you in (since I know at this point you are dying to hear what my dear departed grandmother had to say on these life defining subjects). This is the marriage advice and I feel that my friend, Mike Sytsma, the fabulous marriage counselor, will have to pay me part of his extremely large salary because he is going to be using this in his practice every day from now on (he will probably write his entire Ph.D. dissertation on this singular event).
Long before I got married, I asked my grandmother this question (that all young girls must ponder in their head), “Grandmom, how will I know he is the one?” She didn't even have to think over this weighty matter. She just began telling me about a time that she and my mom shopped for a winter coat (at this point I thought that perhaps she had not heard the question and was going a bit senile), but she went on talking about they had looked in lots of stores and tried on lots of coats and then had found the perfect coat (I believe she said it was a blue wool coat with a large collar though that is an unnecessary detail but yet very interesting). They bought this coat and then they didn't look at any other winter coats, there was no need to look at any other coats after they had made their purchase.
I must have looked extremely bewildered at this tale of found fashion in response to a deep marriage question. So she summed this up for me by saying “Whether you are looking for a winter coat or a husband, try a few on and once you've got one that is perfect there is no need to look for another one, you just wear the nice one you got.” That is it, simple and true. I should really write a marriage book on this principle entitled "Coat or Old Coot: It's All the Same." I could sell millions of books, and then I can buy a new winter coat (just kidding- I have no need for one in Florida). I, however, did not go into the next question I had which was,”What if the coat becomes unfashionable or gets the collar torn off or becomes too worn?” The analogy doesn't go that far I guess.
After understanding the coat principle, this next one on motherhood was a little harder to ascertain. My grandmother (the crafty Southern woman)dropped this little truth jewel in an innocent statement that she made to me one day in church. It took me weeks to understand it and three children to realize what it meant in my life. And some days I'm not sure if I am getting it right.
Soon after my youngest brother went to college, I went home for a weekend and attended church with my family. I had just stopped teaching school that year and had only one baby at home. Grandmom attended church with us that Sunday and sat with us in the balcony. The biggest surprise of all was that my mother was not sitting with us as she had done every Sunday throughout all of my life. In fact to digress a minute, one Sunday I had asked my mother if we would be going to church that Sunday and shocked as she was at that question she queried in a relatively calm voice, “Will you be brushing your teeth today like you do every day”? When I answered in the affirmative, she said in a matter of fact manner, “Then we will be going to church today like we do every Sunday.” And that was the end of that.
But this Sunday my faithful mom was nowhere to be found in our Baptist-balcony-this- is-our-pew-until-heaven-and-earth-pass-away seats. Today she was singing in the choir. Now I had never seen her singing in the choir (though she does have a lovely voice which must run in the family since I too can croon a tune with the beast of them- oops I meant the best of them) and so this choir- singing thing was news to me. I leaned over and asked Grandmom, “When did Momma start singing in the choir?” Grandmom looked at me and said, “She's always sung in the choir.” My grandmother had a tone in her voice as if to insinuate that I was the most out of touch daughter ever, not to know this simple fact about my mother. Then she added, “She just took a little break after Max was born.” She was referring to my older brother Max who at this point in the story was over 30 years old (sorry to publish that fact Max, but it was integral to the story). A little break, I thought, a 30-year break is not what you refer to as a "little" break, it is a complete lifetime. But it dawned on me later what this all meant (and since you may all be as clueless as I was I will spell it out for you since it is a published fact that too much Barney can frizzle your brain into mush.)
This was all about the sacrifices that a mother makes. The myriad of awesome things we give up for the time being because we are involved in the dailiness of dirty hands and peanut butter lunches and ABCs and "he hit me" and "she did it first." All kinds of exciting "stimulating" events that seem to crowd out all other forms of human pleasure that we used to know in a former life. And those other things (like singing in the choir, painting a masterpiece, reading books that aren't published by the Little Golden Book Company, traveling blissfully to Europe with only a backpack and a map, being a gourmet chef, eating at a restaurant that doesn't have a slide and ball pit somewhere on the premises, saving the world, wearing the latest fashion, wearing something clean for more than 10 minutes, or even correctly balancing your checkbook to the exact penny) take a back seat for a season.
But if we wait long enough a season will come around where we have time to do those things again. And to my grandmother, it was as if my mom had just taken a short break (age can give you that perspective, I guess) and was back to her normal routine. I think about that a lot in this season of tattle telling, just one more story, finding that lost shoe, and make my cereal without milk just after I have poured milk on it already days.
Someday the books will get written, someday I can see all those plays, someday I can wear something that didn't get bleach spilled on it, someday I can appear on Broadway (well, I can dream, can't I). Maybe my children will ask my mother, “When did Mom start directing award winning Shakespeare productions, traveling to exotic countries without carrying a pack and play, dressing so nicely in matching outfits that are nicely pressed, winning Oscar awards with dazzling acceptance speeches that wind up as soundbites on the Today show, or yet even speaking in full sentences?” And my mother (God bless her choir singing heart) will say, “Your mother has always done that kind of stuff- she just took a little break after you were born.”