no. (roses_rejoice) wrote,

the life i should have had

I was gonna go out today. Instead I thanked Dr. King for making me free at last to sleep in, and then I dozed back off and had lots of the usual dreams. My mom's voice called my name and woke me up. I knew that meant she was thinking about me and I should call her. as it turned out, she called me while I was in the tub reading Patty Hearst's SLA book (I already read Steve Weed's and two other people's). I finally got around to telling her the story of how I took the SAT and she said, "I didn't even realize you took it." Yeah I figured that. I love my mom.

What I Did During the LJ Outage: A bunch of things actually, but I did compose the following post, which I now plop here for post erity before I go do a bunch more things.

Don't get me wrong. like i said, i was generally a happy child, in spite of my dad's debilitating spinal surgery and two heart attacks. in spite of dad going on strike once and us having little grocery money because mom was too embarrassed to use the food stamps (I thought it was kind of fun finding bargains at the grocery store, except we couldn't buy any of my favorite dinner, steak). in spite of the other kids on our block being mean unfriendly little bastridges for the most part. in spite of the vietnam war on the tv, riots in the streets, and nixon in office. you don't notice all those things, they're just Part of the Landscape, when you are a Happy Child and you are Loved. and the 'rents loved me, I knew that then and I knew it now, and they showed it, and they taught me many good lessons, and they spent time with me. daddy would play with me every night (when he was well). we played cowboys when i was little. when i got older, we played sports. catch and whiffle ball. the other kids never understood how i got so good at batting and catching because i never played in a league. and mom took me to the park, and mcdonalds, and downtown, and she read to me and let me read to her, and taught me how to bake, and taught me how to do needlework. i say all this so i don't get accused of Never Remembering the Good Things, and so the rest of what I have to say doesn't get misunderstood as me claiming to have been raised by a pair of evil witches who gave me an Awful Life.

I also know that from the standpoint of many people, such as a guy I used to know who was raised in the ghetto by a single mom after dad took off, and other people I know who had truly terrible parents, or traumas, or trouble in school, or severe poverty, or abuse, my life looks like a dream straight off a 50's TV show and I look like a big wanty baby for fussing over a few nits.

But i think even basically happy kids have Things they wish had been different. As Gilda Radner used to say, There's Always Somethin'. And we might as well be honest about that. So these are mine.

I wish my dad hadn't been sick so much. Well Duh. I also wish he'd been good at using tools. I have never understood this, because I recently saw all of his military aptitude test scores and he was better with mechanical stuff than with any other area, yet he couldn't seem to saw a piece of wood without cutting his hand or install a shelf without taking three times as long as a normal person and getting it crooked to boot. My mother always said he lacked confidence. I know his own father was always off on the railroad, driving trains for days at a time, and gambling in between, and not around much to show him how to use tools much, and his older brother was a lazy artist dude who liked fishing and painting pictures and probably lording his superiority over his little brother. But I still wish Dad had been handier and not the type who always groused, "I'm not a cabinetmaker." I wish he'd been a cabinetmaker. If a cabinetmaker or a builder had ever wanted to date me, I probably would have married him, on the condition that he was good at his work and would teach me to use all the tools. I wish Dad had been the sort of guy who built wooden toys and dollhouses. I know that maybe he would have had to sacrifice some of his knowledge about something else, like Keynesian economics, but perhaps cabinetry would have been more useful, especially since nobody believes in Keynes anymore.

(side note: My mother is the one who tried to build me a dollhouse. I say "tried" because she actually did start to saw old pieces of wood and hammer them together to build a huge house, Barbie-scale, from scratch in the basement and it looked pretty decent, but halfway through lost confidence in her ability to finish it, or just got busy doing something else, and never did finish, and eventually took the whole thing back apart. She said she hadn't put the supports in right, or something. still, there is something brave about a 50-year-old lady with no previous carpentry experience, unless you count the time she somehow took the basement door off its hinges and then had to get it back on Before Daddy Came Home, sawing wood and hammering it together. My mother is also the one who taught me the little bit I know about auto repair, which she had learned partly from her brothers and partly from 25 years of fighting with auto mechanics. My dad didn't drive.)

I wish my mom had been calmer and not loaded a bunch of expectations onto herself about what a wife and mother should be like, so she wouldn't have been so disappointed in herself when she didn't live up to them. I wish she hadn't yelled so much and hit sometimes. I wish she hadn't felt like she *had* to do things she hated, like cook dinner every night or work at the church with demented, horrible women and rude priests. I wish her family had been nicer to her and lived closer so she could have seen them more often and not felt so alone all the time, because then she wouldn't have been so hyper. I wish she hadn't taken that dollhouse apart. I wish she'd enjoyed all those things she made, or tried to make, instead of going at it with such a nervous energy and only being able to get done if someone else needed it, never just for herself, never just for the joy of relaxing and doing. I wish she hadn't been so blasted social and needed other people and talking so much. I wish she'd been more like Laura Ingalls' mom on Little House on the Prairie and been quiet and happy just baking bread.

I wish I'd been named Sandy or Linda instead of my name. In any event, I wish it would have been OK for me to say I didn't like my name without getting a lecture on how it was the Blessed Mother's Name and dissing it was like, a sin or something.

I wish I'd been able to talk to my parents, or at least my mom, about sex without getting a moral lecture followed by hysterics. I wish we could have had a frank talk about birth control. I wish they'd asked me the important questions, like Do you love him? Does he love you? instead of just freaking out whenever the subject came up. I wish getting pregnant out of wedlock hadn't been regarded as a shameful thing. A stupid thing, maybe not a desirable thing, but a shameful thing? I wish I hadn't had to learn the finer points of sex from Playboy and Penthouse and punk dudes and the kindly old lady (she had to have been 75 at least) I worked with at the Senior Center who lent me Judith Krantz paperbacks, hissing, "Wanna read a good dirty book? Don't show your mother!" I know my mother just wanted to keep me safe, she had no doubt seen too many terrible things happen to women who weren't careful about sex. And it worked, kinda, I didn't have half the trouble a lot of the other scene girls did, and I didn't get knocked up young, or catch any diseases, and the guys I went with were MOSTLY (with a couple of awful exceptions who I won't name but I hate their guts still) nice patient fellows who didn't get too upset when you didn't "put out" because the other kind knew they weren't going to get anywhere with me. And I know sex is supposed to be private, and if you aren't old enough to have a sex life without involving your 'rents in it then you probably shouldn't be having it yet. But I just wish the whole thing didn't have to be so undercover all the time.

I wish my parents had been more relaxed about money. I know it's hard to be relaxed about it when you're used to worrying about not having any and in fact you don't have all that much. And I've already made long speeches about that many times in these journals so I won't make another one here. I have spent half my life trying to kick money off its pedestal, by having it, or not having it, or spending it, or not spending it, the same way I spend all my time trying to think the meritocracy off its pedestal, and one day I'm going to be able to just walk away from both things and shoot 'em the big bird, and that day can't come fast enough sometimes.

I wish I could have taken art classes. Art classes at my school were considered to be for stupid burnouts. I was good at art but had no room in my schedule for the classes after all the "required college prep" (ha) stuff was loaded in. Also, I wasn't sure if I was any good at art. I knew one really good artist, who did somehow find room for the classes, and who was also a good student and the daughter of an eminent dean of chemistry, and I showed her my drawings and she said they were great. Last I looked, she had grown up to become a chemistry PhD just like Daddy. I wonder if she still draws. I don't. I should.

I wish we could have lived in the country at least part of the time, or by the water. Simply. I wish I hadn't had to attend so much useless school, I would have preferred some sort of independent study. I wish I'd been able to find a boyfriend, or at least a boy who would have been a friend, in high school, so I would have had a realistic take on love and not built it up so much in my mind because I felt too alone and like I would never have any. I wish my family had been more like the Sunshine Family Dolls, or the family in Madeleine L'Engel's Vicky Austin books. Quiet, educated, self-reliant. Basically all the ways I try to be now but feel like I only succeed part of the time (and I know I'm lucky to have even gotten as far as I have with this concept that is so radically different from how I was raised, except that Daddy read history and econ).

I wish I'd had grandparents around more than I did. I did have one Grandma for a few years when I was little. She was a pretty nice Grandma although not as much into grandkids as some are. She wasn't the spoily-type Grandma, she'd already had a lot of grandkids before me and she didn't buy me presents or make me outfits and goodies or talk to me much. But she was a nice person and looked like a Grandma and cooked and baked and was the most unflappable woman I ever met. Nothing, including grandkids, tornadoes, and rodents in the kitchen, got her excited. I could have used a Grandpa, I think. (Not the compulsive-gambler KKK one though, I'm kind of glad he died before I was born, in fact he died before my dad met my mom so none of us have a clue what he was like except the stories Grandma told. Daddy wouldn't talk much about him. I suspect Daddy wished a lot of things had been different even more than me.) Maybe a nice Grandpa would have showed me how to build a birdhouse. I have a book about a grandpa who lives on a farm and he and his grandson build a birdhouse. Every time I read it, I cry. I'm crying now just typing this. Blargh I hate my fucking emo self sometimes.

(Side note: I did have sort of a pretend Grandpa one year. He was a little old man who lived up the street from my Grandma and had a whole bunch of silly lawn pinwheels and joky novelties and that swing in the big tree in his yard that went higher than any swing I have ever seen before or since, and would swing us little kids and he told my mom jokes and made her laugh and he made dozens of pencil holders shaped like bowling pins (I still have the one he gave me, it's downstairs in the curio cabinet, he signed it on the bottom). The year after I met him, my grandma got really sick and had to move and we never went back and I'm sure he died in the meantime, he was already like 80 years old. I'm lucky he really was a nice guy and not some kind of weird child molester like you'd expect some dude to be who invited small children over. Also I'm glad that I got a chance to ride on that swing when I did because nowadays with the potential liability in the event that some kid got hurt on it, you couldn't have something like that in your yard, much less give total strangers a ride on it.)

I wish I could have gone to an undergraduate college I actually enjoyed instead of one that made every day feel like the mental equivalent of basic training in "Officer and a Gentleman" and ruined my nerves for life. Law school was stressful too, but compared to undergrad school, law school was like a 3 as opposed to a 9 on the seismograph, except for bringing back all the bad memories. I wish I had known more about choosing a college, or at least known more people who went to engg schools so I could have asked them which ones were kinder and gentler.

I wish a lot of things had been different. If Wishes Were Horses (I remember the vintage shop in the arcade named that, that was owned by the ex-wife of the guy who had the radio show just before mine, that was too expensive for me to afford but it was still fun to go). I need to be thankful for what I actually have. And I am thankful, and grateful, and all that. But sometimes you just ache inside for the things you never had, and never will. Some kind of a relaxed life involving a low stress job and someone you love and an apartment over a garage and Seals and Crofts. Something I get to visit when I see some of my friends, not that their lives are low stress, but I am when I'm there, because it's a world reduced to something I can handle. Sunshine.
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