Two girls. Raised in the same little town in the same expanse of time. Our parents experienced the Great Depression and WWII. We wore ponytails and skirts in the same school, and were baptized in the same church on the same day. We had older siblings who taught us to deal with life outside the womb of our homes. We had the same teachers, explored the same books assigned in high school and acted in the same plays. We laughed with our peers at games, dances, parties and marched to the beat of the bass drum in the same marching band. Our fathers both died when we were 19, and we took our first steps into adulthood with a strong matriarchal influence. And yet…our two lives diverged in our little town when we opted for college…the same college.
Does it ever make you wonder: what makes each of us unique in this world? Why we make the decisions we make? Hold the values we do?
I think about these things a lot (after I quit reading and doing the usual things that somehow seem to fill up my time). Although we are different, we are both 60 year old women who have made a journey from childhood to “golden” years and are experiencing the sensations, the wisdom, the pain, the fears and the joys of being the elders of our individual families. Is this a rite of passage that our mothers didn’t tell us about…or we did we just – not – listen?
Our college life I would imagine was pretty similar – both big, compared to our rural beginnings; so big that I don’t ever remember seeing her on campus. Did we really go to the same college? We lived through the riots, the shut down of campus after Kent State, the propaganda from the communist/socialist/marxism/SDS diatribes/feminist manifestos and the free love/drug/communal/organic culture explosion. True to my Gemini nature, “I took the road less traveled by…” with courses so diverse that I’m surprised I graduated with any major: music, black studies, social work, education, history. If I could have, I would have stayed forever in the ivory tower just to sing in the choirs, but practicalities inserted themselves, and I took a job teaching in the inner city of my college town, which was, to my astonishment, far more educational (and my choir director found ways to let me keep singing, so how could I complain?).
When I think back…Mom was barely 60 when I finally married and moved home to live. It was a conscious choice and completely agreeable to my fiance who had been my high school sweetheart for a year, ten years prior to our reunification. I wanted my kids to have family around them just like I had…grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, room to have as many animals as we could, and a small town to stretch into themselves. Mom was still working for our small town as the village clerk, a job that she held since my first year of high school. Did she feel like I do now? If she did, she never talked to me about it. Her mom had been gone for just a few years when she became a sexagenarian – just like me. Who did she talk to? Who held her confidences? I wish now, I had sat down and just talked with her. Asked her more questions – been a better daughter. How much wiser could I have been? Would she have stayed on this plane a little longer – if I had done so? Instead, probably like most daughters, I kept my secrets and did my own thing, had babies (that she loved more than life itself) and rolled my eyes at things she said and did. Are we all fools regarding our parents until they are gone? To take it a step further, is that how we regard God? Are we always trying to cut the proverbial apron strings and “do it on our own”? The tree of life is still intriguing.
Who knew that you could be an orphan at the age of 60? We tend to relegate that role to children, but somehow, I feel the loss of my parents as deeply today as I did at 19 and 54. Even after 40 years since my father joined the heavenly stage (six years since my mother joined him), I can’t see his face except for pictures that have become my memories. Still, both of them are the voices in my head in times of crisis, times of joy and in the spiritual road I follow.
Two lives diverged in our little town…and yet, we are on the similar paths, under the similar trees, passing through similar storms…we just follow two different roads. Do the roads lead to the same place? Who knows? I tend to believe so. Factually, I only know that the parallels are there, and it is nice to know that there are others out there who question with wonder and regret. No matter how we individually label ourselves… we are similar; we are on a journey together and somehow…that is comforting.
Robert Frost’s poem ends with “…I shall be telling this with a sigh, Somewhere ages and ages hence…” He was a wise man that Robert Frost.