SoulCycling Grandma

Today’s spinning grandmothers has nothing to do with spindles and wool. They say today’s 60’s is the new 40’s.  We are healthier, more nutritionally informed and educated about the mind/ health relationship to longevity. We have the advantage of advanced medical care and preventative medicine. Statistics show that normal life expectancy for the Millennials may be into the early 100’s.  Great news, yes?
Maybe for some, but along with this focus on youth and the ability to stay physically fit longer into the ‘grandma years’ is the slowly eroding Norman Rockwell’s image of Grandma and Grandpa. Perhaps a sad farewell and a bitter pill for those who want Grandma to still be round and cuddly and let’s face it – comfortably ‘old-looking’ like most of our real Grandmas looked in the 1940’s.
My 1940’s grandmother was a bit overweight, wore neatly ironed house dresses and her gray hair in a bun on top of her head. She was warm and snugly and wore an apron when she cooked. Grandma looked like all of the other grandma’s I knew as a child.  But the sad reality is that my grandmother also died in her late 50’s of angina from her fatty cooking and hard work slaving over the stove and caring for her ten children.  I would say, honestly, not so great for snugly Grandmas in those days.
The 1940’s WW II women and soon to be grandmothers of the 1960’s were emancipating themselves. No one would  ever have accused my mother or her sisters of slipping into the gray ‘grandmother background’ as their mother’s generation did.   Mother looked like all of the other women in the 1950’s who were still homemakers, but younger looking, interested in homemaking, but just as interested in fashion and looking good. The 1960’s grandmothers were slowly inching their way out of the stereotypical image of grandmas past.  They, like most grandmothers of their era, loved their husband, children and grandchildren first, but keeping up with fashion and beauty trends came a close second.  And a job outside of the home to keep busy after her children were emancipated was not frowned upon either. (As a matter of fact I owe my career to my mother.) Grandmothers were beginning to not live in the shadows of ‘old age’ and were still having a life in their second chapters.  
The Millennial Grandmother. This is where within the timeframe you and  I jump in, and I am a little confused about my role as both mother and grandmother post childrearing, too. Not confused at my overwhelming love and undying support for my children and grandchildren, but confused about who they might expect me to be.  I am not my mother. I am not my grandmother and maybe I may not be like the average over-fifty woman. I am me. As a woman I want to be honored as relevant and accepted for who I am, warts and all, and appreciated for what I have contributed to their lives. We are all trying our best by trial and error. 
Women of my generation, for the first time, are more free to be ourselves, always evolving perhaps, but not forced to be put in boxes with labels. We are women first. We don’t have to be ‘old’ in our thoughts or actions.  We mothers all have always had needs and wants stored on the back shelf while our energies were dedicated to focusing on getting everyone out of the nest equipped with the greatest survival kit we could put together. But those personal needs and dreams of ours never died while sleeping. Our grandmothers and mothers may have dared to dream a life of their own, but few could live those dreams beyond their jobs as mother and caretaker of those she loved most.
Perhaps the label ‘Mother’ is so strong that our children grow up not knowing who we really are after we take off our ‘Mom’ hats and we each begin our own lives. News flash children of ours. We are the same person we have always been.  The same people who wiped your bum and kissed your scrapes when you fell down. The same people who cheered at your football and basketball games and dance concerts. We haven’t changed. But you have, and by doing so, sometimes you expect us to still be wearing the ‘Mom’ hat and not allowing us to be free to be who we always have been before you and I were introduced. 
Every birthday I am reminded that my diary only has so many pages left and how much the conflict of my and my husband’s needs and my desire to spend as much time as possible with my children and grandchildren is a reality.  In this age of family diaspora, the juggling act never ceases it seems. I am sure we are no different than most. 
In the end, I am so grateful to be living in this time – in the NOW, because my generation of women, mothers and grandmothers, as I noted before are usually younger physically and mentally than our chronological ages. Due to this wonderful phenomena of being able to live a full life after raising our children,  I believe we are sometimes a shock to our children.
 Well, mothers unite this Mothers Day. We should have a message for our children.  They are going to have to get over it, because our grandchildren are cool with it and most of us well over fifty don’t want to be other than who we are and comfortable in our own skin. 
As long as we can have ‘forever careers’ if we want-or not, go to Vidal Sassoon, wear MAC lipstick, do yoga, SoulCycle, Tweet, text, WordPress, Instagram and have Facebook friends, humor us.  We mothers and grandmothers are in this life on your side for the long haul and are just being the women we have always been hidden under the ‘Mom’ hat. Could it be you were too busy living your own lives that you just didn’t take the time to see?  
┬ęSandra Hart 2015. All Rights Reserved.
  

FROM SUN TO SUN

20140607-164003-60003441.jpg

Life is all a matter of relativity. As a young widow with three children I thought I had at times a very hard life. But recently certain events within my family brought me to think about the two generations that came before me and my grandmother and grandfather who lived on a farm in Ohio. If I really want to be honest, comparatively, my life, even in the worst of times, was a piece of cake. And I am ashamed to think I might have had a hard row-ever.

Enduring several miscarriages, my grandparents wound up with 10 living children to take care of. So, basically, in those days, my grandmother had the care of 10 children while Grandpa did ‘manly- head-of-household’ duties.

She and my grandfather lived on a farm and not only did she make all of their clothes, she cooked for all the family and farmhands, and on top of that made fresh bread daily. I still remember the flour sticking to her broad-knuckled hands as she wiped them on her apron, cleaning them between each kneading.

She did the seemingly endless farm and family wash by scrubbing on a washboard anchored on a big galvanized wash tub and then hung the laundry out on the line propped up by a pole in the middle to keep the weight of the wet wash from dragging the clothes to the ground. In the winter the clothes would freeze dry and the freezing temperatures made the sheets whiter than white, infusing the towels and clothing with the clean smell of God’s open country air. In the summer sheets would often be laid out on the green grass allowing nature’s bleach, the chlorophyll and sun, to take out any stains. Grandma knew how to make the tools of nature work for her.

.

20140607-164830-60510059.jpg

Once the laundry was dry, folded in baskets and brought into the kitchen, Grandma would iron all of the family clothes and sheets with a heavy solid iron heated on the kitchen coal stove top that today I would be pressed to even lift once without complaining.

She planted the vegetable garden every year. I remember helping her hoe the straight rows between the beans, lettuce, and strawberries. I can still see her bending over with her stovepipe bonnet huffing and puffing going about her work. I loved helping her pick strawberries ( one for me, one for the basket) and wondered while I filled my basket how she could gather pea and bean pods by folding up the corners of her long apron to make a sack for the pods.

But, I think, looking back, the best part of the day was when Grandma would let me tag along to the chicken coop in the morning to gather eggs. She taught me how to gently remove the eggs from the nests. I still remember how warm they felt as I caressed them in my hands before placing them in her basket. Sometimes I couldn’t resist putting the warm eggs against my cheeks so that I could feel their warmth on those chilly farm mornings.

“Here chick, chick, chick, chick, chick, chick, chick, chick.”

I can hear her soft voice calling her chickens as she lovingly allowed her grandchild to awkwardly throw handfuls of feed on the ground and sharing my excitement at watching the chickens run and peck, peck, peck, gobbling up their day’s nutrition.

The last memories I have of her and me together, my sweet grandma, is my sitting by her bedside after school and reading her the jokes from my Weekly Reader. Her gray curly hair pulled back in a pompadour style bun, her head resting on her pillow, she would quietly laugh as though she really liked the comfort I was trying to give her. Even in what would be her last days, Grandma was still working for her family. Giving me her last ounces of love.

My grandmother and those wives and mothers of her generation are the epitome of the adage of what they say, ” From sun to sun, a woman’s work is never done.”

Love you Grandma. I haven’t worked nearly as hard as you, or been loved as deeply as you, but, all things considered, life has been good to me and your other grandchildren. I think you would be happy to know that.

20140607-165807-61087854.jpg

20140607-171713-62233177.jpgl

Copyright Sandra Hart 2014. All rights reserved.