My aunt loved to “flop” in the afternoon. After eating lunch and taking care of one or two things she needed to do, Mamie would always retire to her bedroom and lie down on her bed for about an hour. First, she would read her daily devotion from a little book she kept by her bed called God Calling. Then, she would write down in her journal her daily record of everything she and her husband, my uncle Jack, had done the day before. And then, she would either take a little nap or lie there in bed, reading. I guess you could say she knew about the value of meditation long before it became popular with the rest of us!
When things got stressful in her life, she would “flop” more often, maybe once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Her “flopping” time seemed to work almost like a recharging station. If she felt herself getting stressed or exhausted, she would always take the time to relax, unwind, and breathe. Nothing could stop her. She would just announce to all around her: “I need to go flop!”
When I was about ten years old and spent time with her one summer for a few months, I at first hated her flopping time because it meant she wasn’t available to do something with me, like going grocery shopping or going to the library or just laughing together about something. But, as the days went by, I came to love that time of day. Mamie would flop on her twin bed, and I would flop on Jack’s, andwe would both read or sleep until Mamie was ready to get up. I suspect I was one of the reasons she needed to flop that summer, but she never made me feel like I was a burden. We just flopped together. It was during those afternoons in Mamie’s room that I read all about the history of the FBI and several biographies of famous people. Sometimes Mamie told me stories about her childhood or I wrote postcards to my family and friends or worked a puzzle book. All of those memories are pleasant and relaxing and calming to me, even now.
Mamie had a pretty hard life in some ways, but she learned how to deal with her problems in a real practical way. I’ve never known anyone better at taking care of herself. She never allowed herself to get too stressed or worried or busy or anything. She just “flopped” when she needed to, the rest of the world be damned!
I have decided that I need to learn from Mamie. I think I need to worry less and recharge my engines whenever possible. I need to learn how to “flop.”
I remember, back when I was pregnant with Lizzie, that I was talking to my mother about some of the stuff my doctor had told me, and her response was, “I’m glad I didn’t have to worry about all that when I was pregnant!” I wish I could call my mother up now and say, “Mama, you ain’t seen nothing yet!” Women nowadays sure do have a lot more to worry about than when I was pregnant ‘back in the day.’
Here are some examples:
1) My daughter has so many more eating restrictions than we had; for instance, no soft cheeses, so no Feta, Brie, Roquefort, etc.; no luncheon meat; and, of course, very limited tuna! (I’m glad to see that last one on the list!)
2) At least one hour a day, when the baby is active, Lizzie is supposed to count kicks and other movements—and if she can’t count up to ten, she’s supposed to call her doctor.
3) When her “fundal height” was not exactly what it was supposed to be, she had to have an ultrasound (this, mind you, is the fourth time she’s had an ultrasound in this pregnancy!)
4) She’s not supposed to sleep on her back at all because it might restrict the baby’s breathing.
Those are just four of the ones that come to mind. I appreciate all the advances in research that have made these things necessary, and I love to know that Lizzie’s doctor is watching out for my grandbaby, but I also think there is a lot to be said for less worry on the mother’s part! Lizzie’s pregnancy is much more stressful to me than any of my own. After talking to other grandmothers, I know that this partly comes with the territory: you are going to worry more about your own baby (and her baby) than you ever did about yourself. But I also think the culture of pregnancy has changed. Isn’t there something to be said for trusting in nature, for knowing that women have been going through this same process since Eve, and that, with of course some exceptions, things usually turned out all right? I can’t see Eve sitting there and counting kicks! I also can’t help questioning one more expensive medical test/procedure and wondering if they would be calling for that test if my daughter didn’t have insurance.
Let me introduce you to, Casey Curry, wife, mother, and educator who has just published her first novel, Promises. Curry is a master at weaving together fragile family alliances and with four aspiring African American daughters growing up in a military family all over the world, Curry has tons of material to not disappoint her readers. Like her protagonist, Pamela Sloan, Curry is a woman over 50, and the wife of a naval officer who takes us on a thirty year journey full of family secrets and promises.
I mention that the daughters are African American because it was that one fact alone that piqued my interest enough to read the book. It made me realize how little I knew about Black families in our military. Truth is, I had not read much about military families in general, and must confess, had only seen films about families coping with war and death as a young adult – starting with WWII, Viet-Nam, and now Iraq. Films or TV series that stand out are: Coming Home (1978); MASH (the 70’s); even Hogan’s Heroes from the 60’s and all those had an all white cast – or at least that’s how I remember it. It wasn’t really until Glory (1989) and Red Tails in 2012 that Hollywood portrayed African American families in the military.
So, Curry’s book allowed me to enter a world I knew very little about. What did I find? Having grown up with two sisters, I found the relationship between the siblings to be not all that different from my own EXCEPT mine didn’t involve military espionage, family sacrifices, or vacationing on the Vineyard. Interwoven between the daughters’ stories is Pamela’s story, their mother whose past is nothing like her daughters. Raised by a father because her mother was either absent or should’ve been, Pam managed to marry well while her half-sister struggled as a poor single mother with an ungrateful and selfish daughter. The contrast between Pamela’s tight knit family and her sister’s rather sad existence with her spoiled daughter is significant and what stories are made of.
I think Casey’s story will resonate not only with readers who have struggled with an empty nest or who are military wives but with women of all ages who have struggled to protect their family. The whole time I was reading Promises, I kept thinking this would make the perfect Lifetime channel movie – one of my guilty late night pleasures.
Casey Curry is the Director of Creative Writing at a fine arts magnet school in Tampa, Florida where she teaches poetry and fiction to high school students. She holds a B.A. from Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, and M.Ed. from Norfolk State University in Virginia. She is a 2012-2013 National Arts Teachers Fellowship (NATF) winner. The novel, Promises is her second book, and was born out of the NATF project, formerly funded by The Surdna Foundation. Ms. Curry is married to a retired Naval Officer and is the mother of three adult daughters. Her youngest daughter, Tori Rose, was the inspiration for her first book, I Remember You Today, and died of a brainstem tumor at the age of three.
My mother-in-law got a call today from someone saying they were calling on behalf of her grandson, Parker Hatley, who had been in a terrible auto accident and was now in jail in Nevada. They appealed to her to help him get out of jail because “he doesn’t want to have his parents find out.” They then put “Parker” on the phone, who was in tears, begging his grandmother for help. They explained that he couldn’t talk loudly or for very long because of the broken nose he had suffered in the accident. My sweet mother-in-law asked them how she would know that Parker was all right, and they assured her they would let her know as soon as she wired the money, in cash, through Western Union, from two different Western Union offices.
My mother-in-law is not easily fooled. She is an extremely intelligent person who does not suffer fools easily. But here is what got to her: the young man crying on the phone, asking his grandmother for help. She went to her bank, got some money out of her savings, and then went to Western Union. Thank goodness the Western Union worker knew this was all a scam and told her not to send the money. But my mother-in-law continued to worry a little bit about Parker until she actually got a call from him saying, yes, he is still in Mexico, and, yes, he is doing fine.
The first thing I was wondering was how they got Parker’s name and connected it to my mother-in-law. All we could figure is that these evil people read obituaries, since my father-in-law died this past year–and the obituary named his grandchildren. These scumbags must target widows and widowers!
I would like to shoot these people, whoever they are–not so much for trying to scam my mother-in-law out of money but more importantly for playing on her emotions that way. I am pretty powerless to catch them. My mother-in-law has already reported them to the FCC and the police, but I bet they hide their tracks well. But I can at least put this whole new variety of evil scam on the blog so that people can spread the word about this to their friends and relatives! Please, help this go viral!!!!!
Also, there was gratitude that her sister and brother went with us on the trip and that her other sister and her husband, who couldn’t come because of work, kept in touch by text throughout the day! I think they all wanted to make sure their baby sister was going to be all right, and it touched my heart.
Finally, there was the pleasure of witnessing Josie finding her way in a new environment and seeing that she will be fine without me. Sometimes it helps to see our kids in different settings, just to be reminded of how much they make us proud.
Before you are overwhelmed with my sappiness, let me admit there was also the pure joy of realizing that I no longer have to prepare a single school lunch or attend a single Parents’ Night at our local high school ever again!
So, that’ was the good stuff. There were also bad emotions, or I guess I should say “difficult” ones, as in the ones that made me want to curl up in the fetal position and sleep for about 48 hours.
First of all, the experience of actually being a parent, bringing my daughter to college, at my very own campus was somewhat surreal, especially considering the fact that all the people who taught me such wonderful topics as “The Poetry of W. H. Auden” or “Social Stratification Systems” or “German History before 1900” (yes, a liberal arts curriculum) are dead. It’s strange enough to walk around a campus and see no students you recognize but it’s past bizarre to see a bunch of young upstarts pretending to be professors, sitting in all my professors’ offices. It was a little like being in a Twilight Zone episode involving, perhaps, time travel and robots.
Secondly, I have to say, it is really, really hard to say goodbye to your youngest child, the last one leaving the nest. It doesn’t matter that your logical brain says, “she’ll be back for fall break,” or “but you have your oldest daughter and her husband back at home with you at the moment, so the house won’t even really be empty for another few months.” None of that apparently weighs in heavily enough to balance out the overwhelming feeling at the pit of your stomach: “My baby is all grown up! How in the world did that happen so soon?”
(There was also, I admit, a self-centered, nagging feeling of fear and depression that, damn, I must be really old if Josie is old enough to go to college, but we’ll ignore that one for now.)
I can sum up the whole experience this way: I am really happy that my girl is off to college, and I am thrilled that she was able to walk off confidently to her new dorm room, with only a couple tears in her eyes, but I am also heavily burdened at the moment with the grief that comes from realizing my youngest child is leaving home, officially, and probably for good. Hold on, you say, she’ll be home for Christmas and spring break and summer. What are you bitching and moaning about? Here’s the reality: once they walk out that door to go to college, they never really come home again, not in the way you want them to. Not in an everyday, being there and belonging there sort of way, where they can take their time to grow up, since you’ve got all the time in the world to go on vacations together, eat food at the same table, plan what color to paint their room. Yes, they come back, but only in a visiting theirparents sort of way, where you get a temporary hold on their time, nothing permanent. You may be able to check out that book for a few weeks, but don’t fool yourself into thinking it will ever be part of your library again!
So, this whole “empty nest” thing that I thought would never have reality in my world, is real. Big time. And so I’m dealing with some rough, emotional stuff at the moment. As a result, I may not be in the best shape for a while.
This is, however, only Day One of this new phase. I’m sure I’ll be much better, real soon. Come a week or two, I’ll be able to walk in her room without crying! And, after some more time, I’ll only weep uncontrollably on those days when she (like her sisters and brother) leaves again, after a visit, to go back to school/new home/new job/whatever. In the meantime, I’ll just curl up tonight in her room and bury my face in her pillow for comfort!