Saturday, October 24, 2009

reality check

I am curious about something.  I want to know if it's typical for adults to become profoundly sad when reminded of their childhood.

Today I heard a hymn that I used to hear in the Episcopal church of my childhood.  (Religion was not a big part of my life either then or now, but I attended church often enough to be able to identify music I heard there.)  My eyes filled with tears- I couldn't function for a few minutes.  (Luckily I wasn't driving- I probably would have crashed the car.)

Is this normal behavior?  Of course, everyone's story is different.  The characteristics of my story which may be causing this are many.  For one thing, I haven't lived in or near my hometown since I was 17.  The family I knew as a child has disintegrated- most of the key people have died, except for my brother and sister who both live far from home.  Only my father remains in my hometown, yet he married into a new family and barely acknowledges his "old" family.

My childhood was not a particularly happy one, although I was an idealistic child and somehow I knew how to make the best of things, and I always knew I'd leave after high school.  I was shy and lonely, reading books all the time.  My family never did fun things- my parents were unhappily married, and my brother and sister, who were teens by the time I was born, resented me.  What's to miss about that childhood?!

Well, as always, I have a theory.  The family may not have been outstanding, but it was the only security I've ever known.  We lived in the same house for all of those years.  My parents got up at the same time every morning and went to bed the same time each night.  There were no surprises.  I always knew what to expect when I came home from school- if my mother was at work, then Gram would be there.  Dinner (we called it "supper") was at 5pm each night come hell or high water.  My mother's cooking sucked, but at least it was consistently bad.  And no matter what she served for the meal, whether I ate it or not, there was always dessert- usually ice cream.  Every Sunday I was given a McDonald's Happy Meal for dinner.

We didn't have a huge extended family, but I knew a few relatives who lived nearby.  Gram was my favorite person of all time, but I was also fond of another older relative, Marion, from my mother's side.  I never knew what appealed to me about Marion, because we had nothing in common, but I just liked her.  I was terribly quiet, even around relatives, so I was sure she didn't know.  I was thrilled when one day my mother told me that she had told Marion that I liked her, and Marion had said, "Yes, I know she does."  How did she know?

 It was not Family of the Year, but it was stable- as I said, it was the only stability I've ever known.  I work in a very unstable field, and my schedule is erratic.  I can't even have a regular bedtime schedule, because I sometimes work late at night and sometimes early in the morning.  I can't sign up for anything regular, like classes or clubs, because of my work schedule.

Besides being stable, my childhood was the only time of my life during which I was surrounded by people who had to care about me no matter what.  That's what "family" is, right?  Now, I do have a child, but he'd happily throw me to the wolves if I so much as tell him he has to go to bed!

My child will not look back at his childhood the way I do mine.  He has no family- he only has a mother- that's all.  The only stability I've been able to offer is the constant knowledge that he's cared about, and that he has a house and food and electronics.  Maybe he'll be able to look back and remember the house on the park with views like the one above, the ill-behaved Chihuahua who constantly wanted to fetch, and the fretting mother who did the best she could.  I'm not sure if his eyes will fill with tears when he hears a song from childhood......

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The goal of the week

I'm thrilled to have a relatively light work week.  I'm working on organizing the house.  Why does it seem that, despite the countless hours I've devoted to organizing, I'm never finished?  I suspect that my method is flawed.  Part of the problem is that I'm organizing for two- myself and the Child.  And I am unable to identify many of his possessions.  How can I organize what I can't identify?  (I'm talking about vaious assorted power chords, computer-related items, parts to game systems- enough electronic paraphenalia that I could open a Radio Shack.)  I've told him he has to participate, but it's like pulling teeth.....

I dislike going through old things.  I define "old" as anything unused during the past year or longer.  Unfortunately, I'm finding some things that I've never even looked at since we moved here 8 years ago.  Old things depress me; therefore, I have a hard time dealing with them.  I remember one time when a friend of mine came over and just walked into my closet and started telling me what to get rid of.  She ever loaded the rejects into her SUV and took them to the Salvation Army.  The funny thing is, I think she herself  is a hoarder.  She couldn't help herself, but she was phenomenal at helping me.

Oprah has had hoarders on her show recently.  I used to think I was a hoarder, but now I realize I'm just a bad housekeeper.  I really don't want to keep things, and I'm not an avid shopper like most hoarders are.  And my house doesn't look as bad as the disaster zones hoarders live in.

My problem is twofold.  First, I have no help- any cleaning or straightening up is done by me alone.  Secondly, I seem to have an ususual ability to block out the mess, to narrow my focus to whatever I'm doing, totally oblivious to my surroundings.  I guess bad housekeepers have to have that ability- otherwise, they'd get their act together.

My mother used to have her own mother and my father helping her keep the house in order.  Gram was obsessive- she'd get down on her hands and knees and straighten out each tassel on the rug with a clothespin.  Oh, I'd LOVE to have her around!  My dishes would always be clean, the sofa cover would always be in place, the food would be put away, the laundry would be done, she'd prepare meals, take out the trash, vacuum, sweep, dust and provide psychological counseling and babysitting.

It doesn't seem fair.  My mother had 2 other adults helping her on a daily basis, and she did not work outside the home during most of her adult life.  I work fulltime and have no help whatsoever- no relatives within 600 miles (not that they'd necessarily help!).  Is this a sign of the times or am I just unlucky in this regard?

I really want to reach the point where I can honestly say that my house is organized.  I wonder if that's doable.  If it is, then the next hurdle will be maintenance.......well, that's another story.