Where Did That Girl Go?

I came across a recipe for a Turnip Puff stuck in an old book. On the back of that recipe was a long shopping list that I had scrawled in pencil many moons ago.

That list was fascinating to me, as all lists are. My youngest daughter and I have played a detective game of sorts for years. When we come across discarded shopping lists we scoop them up and try to glean tidbits about the shopper! “Ooo, they have a dog, see they wrote dog food!”

“O! they love to clean, look they wrote Pine Sol and Brillo down!”

“That, or they’re slobby, and never clean, ha!”

“They’re not vegetarian, look they are making stew.” And so on.

Finding my list was quite an eye opener. I could tell by the way the ingredients were grouped that it was for Christmas. Dips, cookies, candy, salads, shrimp, lasagna and yeast too!

I was amazed at the range of foods I used to bake and cook. I barely get through making one or two things now. (and one of the two things is usually an already cooked ham!)  I still have the ingredients for a wonderful toffee bar made with saltines; I bought the stuff 3 weeks ago to make for Christmas, and I still haven’t gotten around it doing it.

I showed the old list to my Dear Husband, (DH) without whom, there would not have BEEN a Christmas Eve party for 30 people this year. He reminded me that I was 20 years younger then, and I didn’t have a full time job. This satisfied me for about ten minutes.

I continued to ruminate about that girl from 20 years ago…..she not only made everything on the list, traditional foods, fun foods, appetizers, things with yeast in them! Dishes to bring to her family and DH’s family as our Christmas days used to be split in half, but she shopped and wrapped everything herself.

AND she made ornaments for everyone, cross stitched ornaments, and for teachers, and extras to put away for her children, and for her own tree! She shopped, cleaned, and cooked and crafted!

Then I remembered how 20 years ago, I ran two miles a day, did barge loads of laundry and ironing, and had a tremendous vegetable garden, in addition to a pool, a dog, four children (well three then) being “class Mom”. Where in the world did that girl go?

I mentioned her in an email to my sister, who is ten years younger than me. She responded, “I remember that girl, I was amazed by her, but then again, I thought she was crazy, she did way too much!”

Did I? Do too much? It never felt like too much. And yet I was never satisfied. I remember making strawberry jam and taking mason jars of jam and topping them with cut fabric and ribbon (and personalized labels!) to favorite teachers, and the looks on their faces! They were stupefied. Perhaps before their teaching careers they used to make jam, and shop, and wrap, AND cook, and move furniture on a whim, and run two miles AND do step aerobics.

And I was never satisfied. I always wanted to “be somebody”. I thought I was being cheated. That all the women out there with college degrees and careers were making a difference, and I was stuck at home.  They were the real people, with real lives and I was somehow being tortured and missing out on life. Stay-at-home-Moms were an undervalued commodity 20 years ago. The hardest job in the world and you don’t even get Social Security credits for it.

When I first went back to work I had a woman boss who was stern, and quick and smart. One day she told me clearly, “This job isn’t who I am. This is just a job. I am a mother. I am a wife. I am part of a wonderful church. That’s who I am!” She was speaking to me with a booming voice and correcting me, I must have said something ridiculous that made her speak to me that way.

But she was absolutely right. And now, years later, broken by chronic illness, my days revolving around the few hours I can remain awake after 8 hours at a demanding job and a one hour commute, I am finally “somebody”. And I hate her.

I long to stay home and just sweep the floor. I long to iron a shirt for my husband, I’d love to sit down and watch a bowl of yeast proof. Or make ornaments to give my girls for the Christmas’ to come.

I tell my youngest, “You don’t remember me when I’d decide after “All My Children” to move all the furniture around in the living room. Bookcases, couches, knick-knacks,  entertainment centers, vacuum and then make dinner”.

She looks at me like I have ten heads. Nope, the mom she has can’t hear well, smells like an old lady, and can barely propel herself much less a piece of furniture.

But at least I know I am somebody special in God’s eyes. I am His child. Whether I am baking or receiving a payroll, whether I am cross stitching or typing, running or limping, I am His somebody.  I ought a have the “bloom where you are planted” phrase tattooed backwards on my forehead. That way, every time I look in the mirror I could read it and remember to appreciate what I have, and where I am, and what God has planned for my tomorrow.

Father God, Help me to be mindful that You know where I am. You are in control.

Help me to appreciate the life I have, the blessings I have, to never lose sight of you, Father. I thank you for the time I had at home with my children. What a precious gift that was, and forgive me for not appreciating it at the time. It was a good gig!

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