This particular blog is going to be more about the author, me, than about the characters in my first book, The Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir.
I was about eight years old on the particular day I have in mind. It was a warm, bright, sunny day early in the summer with a sky of crystal clear blue. I told you
before that my father was the landscape instructor at the community where we lived and therefore the gardens around our house were lovely. There was a large forsythia and bridal wreath bush at the east side of our house with the garden proper fanning out from these two foundation plants. I was in my pajamas and had crawled in under the cascading yellow forsythia bush where I had nestled down in the violets that filled in the unused patches of Daddy’s garden. I could small the warmth of the earth mixed with the dew of the morning and there was no other place in the world that I wanted to be. I could dream about anything here. My mother’s voice pierced the reverence of the moment with, “Birdie, where are you? You haven’t washed or dressed for the day and your breakfast is still on the table. It is almost 9:00 am. It’s time for you to come in here and get ready for the day!”
I was silent, holding my breath. Would she go away?
“Did you hear me?”
Reluctantly I responded, “Yes, I’ll be there in a minute.” I can’t remember now whether I waited long enough that there was another call from my mother but what I do remember is how I hated to leave that relaxed place of freedom and beautiful place for dreaming.
In a past blog I have talked about my maternal grandmother and how she supported her six children by washing clothes for a living out of the basement of her home, in
Medford Massachusetts. And I shared with you that in her own words she admitted that she was so exhausted by the end of her days, stirring clothes in soapy set tubs or bent over the ironing boards pressing fine ruffles, that she was unable to snuggle her little daughter. Their intimate times were as she crawled into bed at night and held her sleeping baby girl. So the message of hard work, done on a regular schedule, goes way back in my family. It was as if work was the passage to the wherever this life was taking all of us.
I was about ten years old when my sister, PollyAnne, cornered me and said, “Hey,
you know you are old enough you should think about getting a job. You can pick up apples at Davis’s apple orchard just like Owen and I did when we were small. If you want to go to college you’re going to have to earn some of the money, you know.” I knew what she was talking about because sometimes she and my big brother Owen did go and work in the apple orchards. It took me awhile but I finally cornered a girlfriend and we did go and pick up dropped apples after school and on the week-end. That first three dollar pay checked was such a prize.
Now I want to move much later into my life. My family of daughters was pretty well out of the house by now and my sister PollyAnne and her husband Bud were driving up from Tennessee to spend a few days with my husband Sy and me. My brother-in-law drives a bit in overdrive (that is driving right over the tops of the other cars) and they made the trip in two days and an overnight. Polly hadn’t been in the house very long when she said, “Want to see the Christmas mittens I was working on during the trip up?”
My response was “Sure, but you were knitting in the car while it was moving?”
“Of, course! You remember Mother always said you shouldn’t have idle hands.”
“But in the car?!!”
“Of course, I always knit in the car.”
Now let’s move forward again to the point where my mother has come to live with
Sy and me. We have moved from our retirement community home to the old mill house on Hopi Street. I have clients to attend to, my grandchildren and family are in the apartment above my head, I sing in the church choir, listen to a daughter in a frustrating marriage, write a column, and attend to the housework of our home as well as my mother’s care. One day Mother drew me aside and as if she were sharing a secret she said, “Sweetie, if you don’t slow down and take some time to rest I’m fearful you are going to get really sick.”
I wanted to scream back at her, “And who made me this way?!!” But I mumbled something about time to rest would come later.
Well, age-wise the time has come to slow down, but I have so much to do before they turn the lights out for me; and as my body begins to suggest that maybe it is time to slow down I can’t seem to shake those old weighty messages of no idle hands or hours for that matter. After this kind of a life and these family messages how do you learn to play?!!
I’m wondering: Do any of you reading this have the same problem with a weighty family message that holds you back from something that would be better for your health or wellbeing? Do you maybe have a vice induced from struggling with one of these subtle family messages? What is it?