Saturday, February 7, 2015

Is it nostalgia?

I often talk and write about missing my kids.   Even the ones I see on a regular basis.   I guess if you can have perimenopause , you can have peri-empty nestism.  I like making up words.   

I get these wistful feelings, especially around the holidays and birthdays.   Birth days.  BIRTH days.  The day anticipated by everyone in the family.  "Do you hope it's a girl or a boy"  "as long as it's healthy".   That is what we wish for more than any other thing.  Our as yet unborn child to be healthy.   

And that day comes.  And you fall in love with a little, pink faced, cross-eyed little one.  You nuzzle the head and remember that scent, for each child, for the rest of your life.  It is us at our most vulnerable and primal.  
We nurse and bathe and talk to these little people and they grow before our eyes.
It is so sweet to remember the "good old days", but no matter how many times you hear it, you don't believe it.   Up to your elbows in soapy dish water.   Folding diapers.  Begging the little one to nap so you can get something, anything done.

When all five kids were still at home, we had quite an age range,  Courtney in high school.  Chance in diapers and still nursing.  It seemed impossible to to get anyone where they needed to be without taking the whole gang.

All the stacks of diapers I folded, fresh out of the dryer.  That was one chore I liked.  It gave me something tangible to show some product of an otherwise tornado of a day.  Socks.  and sock and socks.  Seven people in one house.  All wearing socks.  All dropping them "somewhere".  One girl and four little boys, and all those socks.  Wash, dry, match, roll up and put away.
Most of the time when we were in this house at least, we didn't have pets.  So we didn't have cat hair in the rugs.  The floors were kept relatively clean.  I would dump all of the clean and dry laundry out onto the family room floor.  And I made seven piles- I'll try to illustrate here: (In the "proof" version, all of these names are lined up perfectly as are the lists under them.  No idea why they look different in the published version)
Nick           Nancy                    Courtney         Morgan          Darcy           Austin        Chance       
Shirts           shirts                        shirts                shirts                shirts            shirts            shirts
Pants           pants/ jeans              pants/ skirts      pants/ shorts     pants            pants            pants/ overalls
underpants    underwear/bras       underwear         underwear       underwear    underwear    diapers
socks            socks                     socks                socks               socks           socks            socks
pajamas        nightgown               pajamas            pajamas            pajamas       pajamas        pajamas

Now lets add to this list the various sports uniforms, shoes, socks hats etc. 

The socks killed me.  All four boys wore similar socks for the most part.  White socks with the blue or red stripes.  The boys went through 56 socks a week.  And that's only the ones we could find  The boys wore different sized socks.  So I marked them on the bottom with each boys' initials. For a short period of time I was writing their names in their underwear, but they grew out of that. (choosing different styles)

Now, can you see what I did with each pile?    I would go to each pile, by person, and stack.  Pants on bottom (because they are a big base), next shirts, underwear, socks and pajamas.   I made the same neat pile for each person in the family- in order of age; hence, Nick, then me and so on.

I took everyone's clothes upstairs and put them away.  That was on Monday.   I also washed diapers on Monday.  Then Wednesday, the whole thing started up again.  By Friday, I did double time.  I changed all of the beds and washed all of the sheets and all of the towels.  That made me feel, that, by getting done on Friday, I would have a weekend off.  Sort of.  And of course in the summer we had beach towels and in the winter, snow boots, mittens, hats and cold feet needing another pair of socks.
This is a picture I took a few years ago.  A large copy if it hangs in my sister's laundry room.

 Ok, so now I get to the question of the day.  What is nostalgia?   Am I pining for the days when I had to work so hard just to keep things running as smoothly as possible?  

No, even though it took a lot of my time, I do not miss doing laundry for 7 people.  It was nice as each kid turned 13 and they started doing their own laundry.  It gave them the gift of learning how to take care of themselves, and it gave them a life skill.  

Do I miss the messes in the family room?  The kids bedrooms- that could almost qualify to be on "Hoarders" on TV.  Do I miss the fighting, arguing, hitting, crying?  The trips to the ER needing stitches, or to have a bone mended.   No.

No.  But maybe yes too.  It was a busy crazy time.  I got angry and frustrated way more than I should have.  I regret my behavior and the things I did and said.   

But in my mind.  In my memory, the adults, babies I bore, are still my little ones.  They need me.  I need them.  I need direction and  purpose.

I was looking at some pictures Courtney put on Facebook the other day.  They are taken in her living room.  I see things, books, pictures, maybe sculpture, in her home.  I feel incredibly sad, and distanced and removed.  I know that's how it is supposed to be.  We have done our job right.  We have self sufficient adult children.   I don't start up play groups any more.  I feel superfluous sometimes.

This is what grand-parenting is about I think.   It is about seeing a new generation that you are connected to.  I think you get some of that feeling of usefulness back in a different capacity.  An affirmation both of life, but of love.   

I don't know yet, but I imagine one of the reasons grandparents feel proud is because they were good enough parents in some way or another and their own children want what they had.

I am so glad and grateful that I was able to have children/ adults.  Not just for the sake of having kids.  But so I could grow.  So I could see their excitement at petting a sheep and riding a merry go round.   Learning to ride a bike.  I helped with that,  Teaching all five kids how to drive a car!
There should be a book on the secret life of adult children/ formerly baby children in diapers.

The love and the longing for what has slipped through my fingers is what I feel.   All the time.  I guess that's what nostalgia is.

noun: nostalgia; plural noun: nostalgias
  1. a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.
    "I was overcome with acute nostalgia for my days in college"
    synonyms:reminiscence, remembrance, recollection; More
    wistfulness, regret, sentimentality;
    "a nostalgia for traditional values"
    • something done or presented in order to evoke feelings of nostalgia.
      "an evening of TV nostalgia"

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