Number 13: The Birthday Edition
1. Next Tuesday is my birthday and I will be 33. Not a very monumental birthday, but I'm certainly not where I thought I'd be by now. I was one of those girls who assumed she'd be married by 24, have her first by 26, and another by 28, and have her life together by 30. HAAAAAA. No.
Let's look at where some of my female relatives were at 33, shall we? Not as a negative type of comparison, just as one of those "how people lived back in 19XX" showcases. My quick takes haven't been that quick lately, but meh, whatever.
2. Mom, 1988
When my mom was 33, she was a stay at home mom to an 8 year old (me) and a 6 year old (my brother). She was trying to do some part time work--I remember her trying to work at this crystal and silver outlet, but it didn't work out for whatever reason, and then she worked at the Weathervane (remember that store!?!) for a bit. I remember being so mad because she would buy other people Christmas gifts with her discount and not me. I don't know if her brain tumor (benign) had been discovered yet, but it would be soon. Also within the next year or so, she would start substituting as a school nurse, which would be her gateway back into full time work, seven years later. She's still at that same school today, and her going back to full time work has helped my parents have more money for fun things and their retirement.
At 33, Nana Mac (a play on my mom's maiden name) worked full time at night as a nurse. I know she and my grandfather didn't have a lot of money; he was a police detective and back then, nurses and cops didn't make the money they do now, so that's why Nana worked. I don't think she was an OR nurse yet, but I know she was pretty high up in the chain of command and well respected by the doctors, which was a big deal back in the fifties! She had three young children at the time, and her parents spent a lot of time and money helping out. While she worked and raised her family, Nana also dealt with the effects of MS. There wasn't a lot that could be done back then, and fortunately, Nana's flare ups were rare, but it was something she still had to manage every day, with a very high pressured job. If it wasn't for the MS eventually forcing her early retirement, I think she would have worked until she died. She loved her work, and had she been born a boy, I am 100% certain that she would have been a doctor.
I think it was around this time that my grandfather started his own business, and Grandma was his right-hand lady, answering the phone, sending bills, doing other office work, while raising my dad and his older brother (two more years would bring another boy). I know she was on her own with the boys a lot, since Grandpa had to travel to acquire materials and to deliver products, and was lonely with his absence. Grandma knew how to stretch her dollars; my grandparents were very poor, and the only running water they had in the house until my younger uncle was a toddler was a SINK. Yes, outhouses. In Connecticut. Grandpa's talent for making business deals and delivering a good product and Grandma's organizational skills helped them to develop a family business is still in existence and enabled them to rise out of poverty, to acquire land and save money that sent their kids to college and provided little nest eggs for their grandchildren (No trust funds! Just a "small" amount, that, invested wisely and combined with a scholarship and my mom going back to work, helped me get through college without loans).
Nana Z was the only great grandmother who I remember, even though three of them were alive when I was born. She passed away when I was 15, so I have a LOT of memories of her. Born in 1904, she remembered the Titanic sinking, which delighted my brother who was really into the ocean liner when he was about 10. In 1937, she was a mother of a 12 year old, her only child. Her husband was rendered sterile from Type I Diabetes, otherwise I think they would have had many more children; he worked as a weaver in the textile mills of New Hampshire, and later did something where he had to travel around the country to visit other mills. I don't know if he was an inspector or an engineer or what, but I know that Nana went with him and took care of all of his correspondence and paperwork. I think at 33, though, they were still living in New Hampshire, or they might have moved to Pawtucket, Rhode Island to work in the mills there; either way, she was a homemaker and was an excellent seamstress. Later in her life, she would work in the Providence Police Department as a matron (aka patting down the females who'd been arrested, making sure they were OK, nothing like Matron Mama Morton in Chicago, ha!).
My mom's little sister who I idolized as a child. She was funny and loved to play and do fun things with us, especially since for many years she lived in our town. She had a cool job in New York City and seemed to be going fun places. By the time she was 33, she had moved back to Rhode Island, met her future husband and was engaged. We still saw her often. While I have grown up, and no longer want to be EXACTLY like her, I do admire that she had three babies right in a row "later" in life at 34, 35 and 36 (they are all 13 months apart) and has worked full time even after children, while still being a very hands-on mom. She also does what's best for her family, which right now means that she works a plane ride away during the week, and flies home on Friday mornings. This happened after my uncle lost his job and right around that time, she received a promotion that required travel. So the decision was made for my uncle to be a stay at home parent, which I think might have worked out well, since the kids were pre-teens and needed a lot of rides and supervision. I highly doubt that if I'd asked her when she was 33, if she thought her life would be like this, she'd have said yes. Her life is not perfect, and she also has some hip issues that she grits her teeth through, but she's been able to raise good kids and support her family. Even though there are only six years between my mom and my aunt, and nineteen between my aunt and I, I think my life mirrors Aunt Patty's more than my mother's.
So where am I at 33? Married, a homeowner, a cat wrangler. Trying to find my way. Unlike my foremothers, I don't have children yet. Lately the absence of children has been getting me down. Most women aren't stay at home wives unless they have children, yet I'm home, not working and not parenting. I feel as if I don't have a purpose. The women of my family seemed to have been very connected to what their family structure was at the time--be it helping their husbands with their work, working out of the home themselves, or raising children (and sometimes doing all of this at the same time). I don't do any of this--wifely duties such as making dinner, having food in the house, doing the laundry, etc, only take up so much time. I write this knowing that it will be read by women who are juggling their very busy lives, and they'll probably roll their eyes wishing they had a few minutes of peace. I was one of them, not too long ago. I have been looking at volunteer opportunities and part time jobs, if the full time work doesn't come, but I still have to wait for those things. For the first time in my life, I don't HAVE to do anything, be anywhere...well, except home for dinner. :-) When we have little direction, we are lost.
Don't forget to visit Jen over at Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!