From Camelot to Disney World

Born in Camelot
I was born in 1957, towards the end of the Baby-boom. When John F. Kennedy came into the White House, they called it Camelot. The early sixties was an upbeat time, full of hope and growth and movement to suburbia. When I say growth, I mean it. I was the fourth of four kids, in an upper middle class family outside of Philadelphia. Camelot, or it was at least, until November of 1963.

Raised in Mayberry
It was a simpler, safer time. Neighbors not only knew each other but were friends, and looked after each other’s kids. Doors and cars were left unlocked; nobody had to x-ray Halloween candy; the neighborhood grocer would deliver your regular order to your back door, and the milkman and bread man would deliver to your front door. Doctors made house calls, and then called to check on you later in the day. We played outside until long after dark.

People had reverence for institutions. School was not optional, respect was required. Nobody talked back to teachers. Nobody carried weapons to school. Schools were relatively free from drugs at least until high school. Divorce was not as prevalent. There was no sex and violence on television. (At least not during prime time). Have you ever actually listened to some of the dialogue on today’s situation comedies? Try raising kids and having to answer the questions that come out of an episode of “Two and a Half Men.”

Several generations of families remained within a city area, and cousins grew up together, sometimes ending up closer than siblings or friends. But with my generation, that changed. We became more transient… staying in or near the city or town where we went to college; meeting and marrying someone from out of town; moving across the country to take advantage of a brilliant employment opportunity. It doesn’t matter. Today, families don’t stay together.

Living in Havana
I came home to Miami after college. There was already a large Cuban population in South Florida as a result of the Castro regime, who came here in the late fifties and early sixties. Most of them “Americanized” fairly quickly, attempting to learn the language of their new home, gain citizenship, and become productive members of society. Did they ever. They brought with them a wealth of culture, art, music, foods and more.

But a short twenty years later, another wave of Cubans made it to shore that did not have the same ambition. Since that time, Hispanic countries and cultures have poured into the United States looking for freedom from poverty, from political oppression, religious obstruction and many other reasons. Proud to be free and American, they have made Miami among other cities, their home, however because of the language barrier, I no longer feel at home. I cannot get a job unless I am bi-lingual. There are parts of town where nobody speaks English, and all of the literature is printed in three languages: Spanish, Haitian Creole and English. Even my Temple has a Spanish speaking Rabbi who conducts services in Spanish for part of the congregation. No Hablo.

Looking for Utopia
I’ve been in the workforce for over 35 years now. I’ve maintained a 32 year marriage, raised a family, kept a home, and have been available to be a caretaker. I’ve done everything that has been expected of me. Someone once told me that I have successfully lived my life by “default.”
Actually, I don’t think I ever really knew what I wanted to do with my life, so living my life by default worked, for a while. Other than raise a family, I never really dreamed of doing anything in particular. I had all the “movie-star” hopes that little girls have. I wasn’t encouraged to follow any dreams. Camelot and Mayberry didn’t lend themselves to girls having ambitions other than pillbox hats and cakes that didn’t fall.

I didn’t know I was good at anything. I didn’t know I had talent. I didn’t know I had dreams. It’s a little late, but now, I do. You see, that same person who told me to stop living my life by default also explained to me a highly technical psychological term. (That, by the way, is sarcasm, in case you didn’t recognize it). She said I have finally begun to “self-actualize.” I’m a late bloomer. But there are things I still want to accomplish.

The one thing I did realize is that I only have one life to live (sounds like soap opera). I want to enjoy what’s left of it, doing what makes me happy, what tickles my heart, what strokes my soul. I know, now, that it can’t be here, and it can’t be now.

Retreating to Disney World
Notice I didn’t call this section retiring to Disney World. I don’t intend to release my inner child, either, although that would be kind of interesting. All I intend to do are three things.

1) Simplify – that means return to Mayberry a little bit. Slow down the pace of my life by moving to a smaller town, to a smaller house and with that, a smaller overhead.
2) Recapture – the days when families weren’t quite as transient. While I don’t intend to become a helicopter mom, I do want to be closer to at least one of my kids, so I can see them more than once or twice a year, with the promise (to them), that I will be there if they need me, but they won’t notice anything different otherwise.
3) Enjoy – the rest of my life, whether its 30 years or 30 days, I want to grow old with the love of my life, doing all the things we always talked about but still haven’t had the chance to do. I want him to slow down too, and join me on my journey. He had his own Camelot and Mayberry. We’ve been together since Havana… we both could use a little mouse.

I Want a Do-Over!

Always had an excuse as to why I didn’t perform better on a test.  There was always a reason I forgot my lines in a play, or finished third in the race.  It must have been old baking powder that caused the cake to come out flat.  I struck out three times in softball because I had something in my eye.  Messed up my letter to the President on the school stationery because there was something wrong with the pen.

Didn’t take that job because I didn’t think it was a good idea to relocate for a three month contract.   Didn’t send my dinner back with the waiter when it was served cold because I didn’t want anyone else to have to wait.   Stayed in that other job too long because I couldn’t find anything else. Let my mother-in-law give the kids brownies right before dinner because she hardly ever got to see them.  Stopped after two kids because that’s what my husband wanted, and I didn’t want to rock the boat.

My mother always told me “little children, little problems, big children….”  You figure out the rest.  Well, right now, I consider myself one big kid, with one big problem.  I have a lot less time ahead of me than I have behind me, and besides my 32 year marriage and two (actually, now three) wonderful kids, I really screwed up, and am just now figuring out that its all my own doing.  All those excuses.  All that wasted time.

I can’t help but call to mind Erma Bombeck’s poem, “If I Had My Life to Live Over Again.”  I want a do-over.  I want the chance to follow my dreams, to stand up for myself, to make my own choices based on how I feel.  I want to put myself first once in a while, stop playing the martyr and the victim.  “I want to run barefoot in the grass earlier in the spring.”

My mother also told me I don’t have to be the “richest one in the cemetery.”   I don’t think I can retire yet, but I certainly can simplify what I’m doing to allow myself to “do-over” some of these things.  (That probably doesn’t include having another baby).

Put me in Coach… I want a do-over.

Like Nailing Jello to the Wall… with apologies to Bill Cosby

When one spends an inordinate amount of time, effort and passion working toward a multi-faceted end, with many working parts and myriad stumbling blocks, it is inevitable that this person will begin to feel a sense of frustration… like nailing Jello to a wall.

When, in that situation, nothing comes to fruition as a result of the stumbling blocks and the many “working” parts, frustration turns to exasperation… like nailing Jello to the wall.

When the working parts and the people behind them show no encouragement or faith that the multi-faceted end, or any part thereof with ever come to completion, that exasperation evolves into vexation…  like nailing Jello to a wall.

When, in the course of performing whatever tasks it takes to achieve an end in any area, there is rarely any positive feedback, but a wealth of criticism and disparagement, that vexation progresses, quite quickly into anger… like nailing Jello to a wall.

When one is filled with frustration, exasperation, vexation, and anger, it should be clear that its time to make a change.  I’m switching to pudding.