When I was a young Mom, there was a lovely older woman who attended our Church who I always admired. She was so put together. Her make-up was flawless, her hair was perfectly coiffed and her clothes screamed style. Her husband was a dapper little guy as well. She had a Jackie O air about her. I loved chatting with her and she was always so interested in my kids and my life. I would always say to Rene’, “That is the Grandmother I want to be!”
Now for a little reality check. We were that family who was always, not sometimes, always late for Church. Rene’ was mortified and yet he was the one family member who was perfectly groomed. I fed everyone and curled, braided, pony tailed hair for two girls and argued about who would or would not wear a dress. Luckily boys just need some water and a comb. I would shoo the kids out to the car where their Dad had been waiting for ten minutes. They were buckled in as I locked the front door and raced to the car with dripping wet hair. Make-up was applied with the aid of a 2 inch square mirror hidden at the top of the sun visor. After which I would put on panty hose in a seated position while my husband reminded me that my seat belt wasn’t done up. Then the front air was turned to high while I ran my fingers through my hair trying to dry it somewhat. We didn’t speak much at Church as we were pretty grumpy by that time. According to Rene’ if you aren’t five minutes early, you’re late. How ridiculous is that?Being Lutheran means the Church fills from the back to the front. So late comers walk past a number of people to find an empty seat. No hiding in the back for Lutherans. I would sit in my seat and admire my Grandmother Hero from afar. She was a Catholic who had married a Lutheran so they were always near the front. And they were never late. She would turn slightly at the commotion my group would create and meet my eyes with a smile that said “it’s okay Cindy”. Then all was right with the world. My hero. My idol. She approved.
As I aged things didn’t get much better. Children were able to get themselves ready for church, school, sport practices. I didn’t change much. It wasn’t just about being on time for things. I wasn’t very organized. I never knew where my keys were. I did laundry when the kids were pulling underwear and socks out of the hamper. We ate supper when I was hungry and felt like cooking. Maybe five p.m. Maybe seven. Kids didn’t really have bedtimes. We just put them to bed when we were tired of them or they were tired and just went. Bedtime was the only consistent togetherness time in our lives. Stories, songs and prayers. Usually three of each. I would drop everything to do the bedtime ritual. Often I laid with one or more children to cuddle and would wake up an hour later feelingly oddly refreshed. Sometimes we just need a nap.
At parent teacher interview time I would send back a note saying I was busy but please call me if my kid was in trouble and we could meet then. In the years where my kids took the government standardized tests, the school would send home a package to help me prepare my kids for the exams. I would send this back to the school with a note stating that if my children were taught the curriculum I was confident they would do just fine. Besides, I already had a job. By the time the kids were in junior high, they made their own lunches, bought their own bus passes and had bank accounts where they deposited their monthly allowance cheques. Homework was hit or miss. They did it if they felt the need. I know my kids are relatively intelligent people. I sent them to public school to make friends, play free sports and learn to cope in a totalitarian system. It would make them appreciate the freedoms they enjoy in this wonderful country. Besides, we would teach them what they truly needed to learn in order to make it in this world.
I knew none of this was the way my hero would have raised her family. She would serve wholesome dinners every night in a timely fashion with every food group represented. At no time would her child ask if it was a meat night. Her children wouldn’t be asked if they ate seven fruits or vegetables that day. She would lovingly wash, fold, iron and put away their clothing. I washed and dried them but the folded clothes were placed in baskets. To be put away by the owner of said clothes. Socks were tossed together for the owners to pair up. That was not my job. She fed them breakfast and sent them off to school with a kiss and a hug while I yelled from the door “if you aren’t in the car in one minute I’m leaving without you!” And I did. My children chose their own fashion sense. The year Britt went grunge was fantastic and very cheap. Everything was from Value Village. Except the Doc Martin footwear. They were given a budget to buy clothes and any amount over budget came out of their allowance. They were dropped at the mall to shop and called me when they were done. I went from store to store where items had been placed on hold. We paid and left. My lovely hero would spend quality magical time with her girls shopping and having lunch as they chose the perfect clothes for the new school year. In my defense, shopping is not my thing. Thank God Rene’ loves to shop. Shoe and sports related items fell to him and I never had to go on those excursions.
I came to realize I would never look like this magical creature either. I often looked like an unmade bed. At work I had my “uniform”. I wore dresses. In the morning I put on a dress and some shoes. Voila! Ready. No mix and match. No thinking. Just a dress. I had an assortment which were all office appropriate. I just rotated through. Send them to the drycleaner and they came back ready to go. That took care of church and funerals as well as most fancy or solemn affairs. Every year there was a new fancy Christmas dress which Rene’ would often pick out. Life was easy. I always had one pair of black flats, 5 pairs of pumps in various colours and two pairs of heels that went with pretty much anything. My everyday life was different though. Behind the scenes I was a little more boho. Baggy and tye dye. Jeans and boots. Flowing and odd. Running shoes that were two different colours. Danish wooden shoes. Always. I once bought a beautiful lace table-runner at an antique store and wore it as a scarf. And as time went on I found that I was drawn more and more to the eclectic and unique. At a Blue Jays game in Seattle my sister in law suggested I buy a team tee-shirt. She, along with both husbands, was wearing a Jays tee-shirt and jeans. I was wearing a white Indian cotton skirt, a tank top, high heeled sketchers flipflops and a floppy sun hat. That was the day I realized I was happy my life had led me on that path to hippydom. I loved my beautiful hero lady but I wasn’t her. I would never be her. I didn’t want to be her if it meant I had to live my life in a way that was foreign to me. Dressing like a clone.
One day I sat down to write a novel in ninety days. Its a thing. Someone wrote a book about it. Anyways, it was right up my alley. Write long hand everyday for an hour using suggestions from the book. Nothing mattered but brainstorming and getting ideas on the page. As the days went by I had developed quite an in depth character analysis of my leading lady. Where she lived, her family, her likes and dislikes, her friends, her job. You name it. This person was real. She was someone I knew intimately and I felt she was as clear as if she truly existed outside of my mind. And then the doubts started. I saw her through a different pair of eyes. I called my daughter in a state. I knew who this woman was. This creature from my mind. She was the Grandmother I had always wanted to become. “So what is the problem?” my daughter asked. The problem is this character is boring, nondescript, predictable, beige, always on, never contrary, conventional, conforming, unfazed, kind, sweet, organized and perfect. I absolutely hated her!
Sometimes it takes a lifetime to figure out who we want to become. If we are lucky we live a life that bring us to the right place. I have learned that I am one of the lucky ones. I didn’t become the Grandmother I wanted to become but rather I am the Grandmother I was destined to be. So far there are eight little people who call me Mormor. As two of them like to say, Rene’ and I are the “other” Grandparents. It is a compliment.