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by LaPia
Rated: · Non-fiction · Contest Entry · #1795732
A long-lived journey of stress and strife pays off.
The Things My Mother Never Taught

Eight years into our marriage Bob and I were still living in trailer parks. We had by then two small boys and a feral cat. I was a stay-at-home mother dedicated to the old fashioned ideals that possessed my mother, though I don’t think she knew it. We were by now in our second trailer in the third trailer park, the fourth town and his sixth job of our married career. I prided myself on turning every pig’s ear into imitation silk, completely oblivious to my husband’s growing resentment. I was as content as a turtle basking in the sun but Bob found no enjoyment in contemplative, hibernating mud creatures. And what better turn of a turtle than the kiss of her prince charming?

We moved a lot, from town to town, sometimes hauling our trailer with us, setting up in yet another trailer court, from state to state, sometimes moving up into the world of the rental district. I packed kids, clothes, furniture, dishes; he packed his kisses with a hope and a promise. The kids and I left behind everything; he brought everything with him. While we relocated, he located. The job was everything, but it was never the right job. Over the years we adjusted to new cultures, new attitudes, new schools, churches, dentists, doctors (to this day there isn’t a doctor, anywhere who has a complete medical history of the McHenry family)

I was still a young woman, in my prime, when my children adolescence, high school, driver’s Ed, girlfriends, dating, increased independence, with an urge to create a world of his or her own. It was precisely then that I was beset with another maternal urge. I saw my “job” coming to an end and wasn’t ready to retire so I cajoled my husband into giving me two more children. After all, didn’t I give up everything all these years for his job? Wasn’t it time that he considered my “career?”

And so, as we entered our forties, we became the proud parents of toddlers and teenagers. I planted a garden, raised my own food, hung out all our whitey-tidies, including rows and rows of sparkling clean diapers, on the line for all the neighbors to admire. Today I look back on those days with a certain nostalgia, for I don’t think I was ever more content as a woman as then. I have memories of all four kids between my perfectly set rows of green beans and ripe tomatoes, or the little ones splashing in the plastic pool with one of the boys being a life guard and the other tormenting them with the “Jaws” theme song. Teenagers and toddlers, family and friends, and a woman happily content with her life. What more could a man possibly want?

A job. A new job. A better job. A job that lifted him up, made him feel important, useful, a job that finally made him feel like a man. The magic seemed to have escaped between the sheets, maybe even faded altogether for a while. So we packed it all up, the teenagers, the toddlers, the all our possessions and left the only real home we ever owned to move to a new State, a promising new job with a promising new future. We struggled with that location more than any other. Our teenage sons missed their friends, didn’t like the new school, the new climate, the new anything. We were immediately beset with financial troubles that put me in the work force for the first time, my turtle days, gone forever. Magical kisses were left to the fairy princesses, which got left behind for the more notable Dr. Seuss and the very scary monster, Calculus. My heart had only enough beats for one day at a time, no more. I sold my canning supplies in a garage sale, wrapped my wedding dress in a garbage bag and left by the curb, (so tired of dragging the darn thing from place to place), gave my entire library of books to the local church, (no longer having time to read), burnt my diaries (fairy tales, every one).

Bob soon moved to Jamaica because there was no place left for him to go, no other work, no other opportunity. For nine months I operated like a single mother and felt abandoned. Jamaica turned over into Pennsylvania and then to Indiana where we finally settled and watched our youngest two children graduate from high school and go off to college.

The first ten years of Indiana were not the worst of our forty-two year marriage but it was the hardest. What little we had gained by all those job opportunities was lost in Unemployment. We had no home, no money, no jobs, no hope. It devastated Bob, his pride, his hopes, his dreams. Failure became his personal mantra. And then one day, he decided that if he could not work for anyone else, he would work for himself. He started his own business, his way, starting on a dime, and I mean that literally, our very last dime, in that gang-infested park, in a mold infested trailer, with two growing children, an exhausted wife, and a new idea.

I remember the first profit he made. It was all of twelve dollars. It gave my husband new hope, his self respect back. Twelve dollars felt like a million at the time. We took the kids to MacDonald’s and spent all of it on Bg-Mac’s, fries and shakes. It was the first in a long, slow procession of profits to yet to come.

Seventeen years has passed since our MacDonald’s celebration. Bob and I are now in our sixties, recently retired, and contemplating what to do with the last twenty years of life—the last twenty—sounds rather daunting, doesn’t it? One thing we both agree on not to keep on keeping on, but to celebrate our forty-two year adventure by entering a new one. We bought a lot in a State we have never lived in before, plan to build our last home, and live life to its fullest, which for me includes having my husband back, mind, body, and soul. We feel like fully mature kids with possibilities galore.

And what can I pass on to my kids at this point of life? Well, nothing, really. There is always a runaway roller coaster out there somewhere ready to take you for a ride. I’d like to say “Don’t get on it,” but how does one tell a runaway from a perfectly safe ride while the engine is still parked in the garage?

My mother didn’t tell me about roller coasters, though I’m sure she rode a few in her lifetime. I’ve never been to Coney Island, Seven Flags, or even Disney Land. Life is its own thrill for those who care to pay the ticket master. I am currently in possession of a ticket to adventure island. Where it takes us is a secret known only to our future existence.
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