I would be just as pleased to be remembered in the kitchen. Oh dear. That sounds like I am caught in the sexist roles I was accustomed to as a child, when women were raised to get married and have babies, contribute to the public good through charitable works, support their husbands in the mens’ careers, and to do no harm. It would be impossible to tease my upbringing out of my present points of view, but you couldn’t say a person who has done all I have done had no aspirations above being barefoot and pregnant.
I’m a well-traveled person — in fact, I’m writing this in Rome. I’ve lived in many places for long enough to know them well — Israel, Austria, Germany, Italy, Greece, and Spain, to name a few. I’m also a well-educated person: Two MA’s; in English in 1964, and in Linguistics in 2006. I’m an accomplished home cook, play the piano and sing. I’m in good shape for my advancing age, and just retired (at least temporarily) from a successful eight years teaching freshman writing at Montclair State University. A lot of my writing has been published, and my memoir, DARING TO DATE AGAIN: A MEMOIR comes out in November.
The point is that after all of this, I find myself most proud of my role as a mother, and a grandmother. I had a job and was not able to be there after school with milk and cookies, yet somehow my children grew up strong. Oh, how I would have loved to be home for them. If I learn on my deathbed that my children remember Christmas dinners, or me doing the laundry, I will not be upset. That is grist for another post….. I am freer now to be there for them, though they are in their 30s. It’s still important.
Public and private lives are sharply demarcated. Knowing that one’s mother or father was a famous movie star or a beloved politician can be harmful to family relationships. Can you imagine being Marilyn Monroe’s child? We all have to choose where to lay our sacrifices, and I have lain mine at the feet of my children. The greatest sacrifice was going to work every day, thus missing important events in their lives. The household had to keep functioning, and that was the only way to do it. I was a pretty good secretary, and made a fair amount of money doing it, but my public life really began after my children were grown and I left my daily commute to a lackluster job for pursuits that earned me less but pleased me more. Writing has been nothing but pleasure to me, and teaching writing was an inspiring challenge.
I was once asked to write my own epitaph, and came up with “Zestfully done.” I’m sticking with that one, but I will be happy if some people remember me being zestful in the laundry room.