Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Life always comes full circle
I believe that it is no small accident that my mother had three daughters and no sons. The only son she had was lost in a late term miscarriage at five months. See, it is destiny that our family curse of outspoken, headstrong women would continue. The only way to do that was for my mother to have three daughters. Surely one of us would continue the curse through our own feminine lineage. I am the youngest of that trio of headstrong offspring, and I am the only one of my mother's children to have biological children. Both of my children are daughters. As far as I can tell so far, the curse continues. Outspoken. Headstrong. Women.
Mine was an interesting family to have grown up in. My maternal lineage is entirely German American. From the Midwest. Ohio, probably by way of Pennsylvania. I'm something like five generations down from the original immigrants to the United States. My mother grew up in The Miami Valley, the only daughter of my grandmother. Her mother, my grandmother, is a woman with a flair for the eccentric and the artistic. When she was still a young mother, she agreed to leave Ohio for good when her husband, my grandfather, decided to take a permanent job at Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton, Florida. They never left Florida after that move. Their choice to step out of the Midwest and venture out to the south, to the tropics of Florida no less, eventually resulted in my parents meeting at Florida State and my sisters' and my childhood taking place in Fort Lauderdale.
When my sisters and I were kids, my mother spoke of the Midwest as a place with good solid family values, where children were raised correctly and there was no evil like what was around us every day in Florida. My mother is a religious conservative who was trained to be a science and math teacher. But instead of going to work every day, she was a stay at home mother. And boy, did she stay at home and mother. Anyone who knows her can tell you that she is never short on her opinions and commentary on the state of society today. From the smallest decision like how to clean the dishes to global crises like climate change to eternal dilemmas like who will go to heaven and who will go to hell, she knows the right answers, dadgummit. For the most part she was right about the evil being around us. South Florida is nothing like the Midwest. It is everything the cable media shows hype it up to be and nothing less (think Kourtney & Khloe Take Miami and Police Women of Broward County). Yet despite my mother's concerns, it was a great place to grow up. In that place of cultural collision and questionable morality, my sisters and I grew up to be individual bulwarks of our own, each clearly defining herself from the other women in the family.
When the three of us got older and starting thinking about our own adult lives and where we wanted to settle...the Midwest kept popping up. Both of my sisters went to college in Chicagoland. One still lives there. The other married a Hoosier and treks back to Fort Wayne at least twice a year. And me? Ten years ago, completely out of the blue, I decided to move to Michigan. I'd never been to Michigan in my life.
Ann Arbor seemed like a nice enough place to check out. A place I could settle down with my husband and our five-year-old daughter. Sure, he was from Texas and I was from Florida, but the Midwest was a friendly place; anyone could fit in if they tried. Besides, I had roots in the Midwest and my two sisters were in Chicago and Southbend respectively. The Midwest was a place where you could build a family and enjoy each other year round. You could run outside catching fireflies in the summer and snuggle close together watching movies and eating popcorn inside during the winter. There were plenty of places for both my husband and I to pursue our graduate studies. It seemed perfect, idyllic even. And so we made the move, both physically and in faith, to Michigan, hoping that things would turn out the wonderful way we imagined they could. In the long run, they did turn out that way, pretty much. Well, sort of. It worked out that way for me and my daughter. My (first) husband and I split after a year in Michigan. I guess I was too much of an individual for him.
Today I'm remarried and my daughter is a sophomore in high school. My (new) husband and I have been married for a bit more than four years. He's a transplant to the Midwest himself, from Brazil no less. Exactly two months ago today, after four years of trying, we welcomed our second child, another daughter, into our family. Indeed, our little family has settled into the Midwest, we enjoy the seasons together, and our life revolves around the calendar of academia.
As for the tradition/curse of my female ancestry, our family is no exception. My 15 year old daughter is unmistakably her own person. She will jump at the chance to give her own unique version of any situation. She marches to the beat of her own drummer. As her mother, it's kind of nice now that she's a teenager since I don't really have to worry about her doing things just because "everyone else is doing it." But boy, when she was a preschooler? Oh lordy. As for my younger daughter, I see this look in her eyes, this determined look like she's trying to figure out how to stand out and make her mark on the world. At two months old, she can't really make too many waves with her opinions; by the time she's two years old, however...
In this context, parenting is a trip for me, both because of my own personality and because of the demeanor of the children I am raising. (Or should it be "the children I am rearing"? I'm sure my mother knows which verb is correct. I'm sure my oldest sister does too.) There is a lot of wrangling with my emotions, with what is right and wrong or if a circumstance even has a right and wrong, and with what the point of it all really is. If I may be frank for a moment though, it's been a pretty wonderful adventure so far, warts and all. Carry on, then.
~~~ If you want to know more about me than what I've given you here, you can check out my personal blog, Comparative Childhood. It's all about me, as a parent and as a person. Parenting causes me to reflect on my own childhood. And becoming a parent to two children with 15 years in between causes me to reflect on how their childhoods compare and contrast. Thus, Comparative Childhood, get it? ~~~