You know, life is really odd. Inside, I mean, really at the core of who I am, I’m still a little kid following grandma around on her daily chores. (They called us Roque and Friend, a Portuguese equivalent of Sherlock and Watson, because we were always together.)
Somewhere, deep inside, the most important thing is feeding the chickens and petting the cats and maybe later we’ll go to cut grass for the rabbits and there will be daisies to chain.
I think the most difficult part of moving away wasn’t missing the family (though that was very bad until I got used to their absence) or the friends, or even going from being a self-sufficient, employed adult to being a newby who had no idea how to do the simplest things and couldn’t even drive to the grocery store.
No, the most difficult part was being on my own. It’s kind of like when you’re learning to swim and you suddenly realize the person teaching you let go (at which point I reliably panicked, swallowed a million gallons of water and had hysterics, which is why I still don’t know how to swim. Eh.)
Because when you’re young you have this impression that the world is an orderly place, and there are adults up there who take care of everything important. You’re not in danger, and never will be. I mean, you might be in danger outside the house when you get in scuffles and outright fights, but you know the house will be there to come home to and that even though it might be your job, if you don’t do it someone else will clean and cook. And someone else will surely pay the bills.
I had the good fortune of a stable family, so there was never a question of the lights going out, not even when we were so poor we weren’t sure where food would come from next. Because grown ups didn’t let the electrical be cut. Well, not people of good upbringing.
And I spent at least two years wearing my brother’s modified cast-offs, but I never went naked, and we never came up to winter and me without a coat.
The first time mom left me in charge of the house for two weeks was the first time I felt like someone had dumped a bucket of cold water over me. My brother was in the army, at the time, and I discovered the joys of washing his uniform after they’d been on night maneuvers, crawling through mud. Then there was the fact that if I didn’t order it, bread and milk were not delivered. And that I had to somehow stretch the money left to me for groceries. (We managed ably by doing mom the “favor” of cycling her older emergency canned stuff. We weren’t killed because it actually needed cycling, but the dishes we produced were… interesting.)
Since these two weeks coincided with my brother’s 23rd birthday I realized, with a shock that I’d forgotten to do anything for it. Mom always had parties for our birthday, but I hadn’t even made a cake. My bacon was saved by all his friends, instigated by my future sister-in-law (though I don’t think they were even dating yet) showing up at the door with cake and party-stuff. BUT it was a first too, my realizing that my dereliction could destroy someone else’s special celebration, that, even if I was overwhelmed and strictly speaking it wasn’t my job, it was my OBLIGATION to make sure his day was special, or the world would be a little dimmer for everyone.
What these rambles tend to is this: twenty four years ago today (well, tomorrow, I slept 30 some hours after the emergency caeserean) I woke up to the realization that I was now the one holding up the pillars of the world for a little person. It was a cold shock to realize this little creature was dependent on me for everything and that as he grew up I’d be one of the people he relied on for his sense of safety and security and everything right in the world.
Have we been perfect? Probably not. But we’ve tried. We’ve tried to keep the special special, and we’ve tried to make home a safe place for him to come back to.
He’s grown up, now, and on the verge of moving out. (And yes, before any of you mentions it, I know he stole Heinlein’s birthday and Heinlein did it better. And we’d planned to name him Robert Anson even though he was due on the 4th of July.) To be fair for the last year he’s only stayed home to help us with the move and the fixing up of the house (got delayed by my being SO tired from LC, but it shouldn’t go past Sunday) since he’s been making enough from work to move out.
And that’s another thing too, learning to rely on him for the brute strength. I was always able to deploy it, but I’m not now after years of illness and of a chair job. So I’m glad he can do it and, what’s more, does it without a complaint.
I wonder if part of the problem with our body politico is that people are never “let go.” People are raised with the idea that it’s someone’s responsibility to make the world safe and snug for them, and they simply can’t let go of it, and when it can’t be their parents, obviously it must be someone else.
I don’t know. I know that contemplating the world from this end, from the “we kept him safe and warm and fed and he’s now fully grown and ready to leave the nest” is very weird.
It feels wrong, because I’m just that little girl following grandma around. But it feels right too, because despite all my fears and inadequacies, I did it. And the kid is a man.
Miracles happen. And I’m grateful for this one.