Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Home and Away

It's been a very busy Spring. I'm continually amazed at how being a Domestic Goddess takes up so much time!

I've been working on a couple of business ideas, some with real promise, and helping a friend start one up. If he makes any money I might get a job out of it, sweeping floors or something. (grin)

I also have a screenplay I'm taking on, with a colleague. This let's me tackle writing in a way I haven't tried before - scenes and characters who (should) pop off the page.

The best part this week is spending Spring Break with my two oldest kids - wow do they still have the teenage affliction of being mouthy, sullen, insensitive and self-centered. BUT they are also great, caring kids, A students, and stubborn like their Dad, persistent like their Mom. It's fascinating to watch them gather strength to launch into the world, even if that means "slaying" the parental units.

If you've done any Freudian studies at all you know that it's a crucial stage in a child's development to cut those domestic ties, to rip themselves away from the shelter and love and safety (boring boring boring) of home and find their way.

I used to be plenty confused and offended to find that the Mother almost always dies in the fairy tale. But of course I was young and could not see how I should be dispensable in their lives, these progeny of mine, my heart, my life. What a terrible life, those poor children with no mother!

But indeed it is the force of my devotion that creates the need - no, the dire necessity - of their killing me off in every lovely fairy tale worth its salt. I have to be wise and giving, unselfish and dead.

No way around it. If Mom hangs around too long, how can the kid ever find out if they can make their way? If they can't test themselves against (choose one or more) the Witch, the Devil, the Evil Step Mother, the Deadly Trial with lots o' dark powerful characters, then how can they really grow up?

Please note that it is the Father - who often outlives the Mother and then falls into the arms of the next wicked woman he meets, perhaps out of survivor guilt - who then neglects the child woefully. So the devoted Mother dies, Dad gets all into his work and the kids, again, are left to fend for themselves.

But from somewhere there is always help. There is the Witch (probably actually a Midwife, something like Baba Yaga, who is said to help us thru both birth and death) who gives wise advice and instruction. In fact, if the Mother doesn't do the giving of some talisman (see Vassalisa) to keep the child safe, or some secret, then almost always another wise creature does. Of course could be a Wizard.

Speaking of which, Iron John is a personal favorite, and one of the best descriptions of this journey for boys who would become men.

Home and hearth then, in these stories, also represents the care and concern of family, and the confining space of walls that keep us in and bad stuff out. The Garden of Eden is a similar story. Heck, if Eve hadn't eaten the fruit, then Adam would have been a spoiled "mama's boy" all his life would have never left "home" to go build a house!

My question is this : if we have to leave home to find our way in the world, and parents are so intent on making a safe, inviting haven for the family, and kids have to fight to get out of it (the beginning of their true rite of initiation) then why do we anguish so much on where to raise kids?

Does it really matter if there is no extended family around? Do we have to stay in the same place their entire lives? Does the family hurt or help our efforts to raise strong healthy offspring?

I'm betting there isn't one right answer.

The matter of "Home" has been rattling around in my head since 2006 - well before I began to consciously consider moving back to Atlanta.

There was no doubt that this was where my roots lie - went to grade school here, high school in the suburbs, and then college up the road in Athens. Summers were often spent kicking around in the sands of south Georgia; Florida was my Mom and Dads' home state, with ancestral homes in Georgia and Tennessee.

The question of what role those "outlying" states of Florida and Tennessee would play in my life is very relevant to me right now. You see I have moved my children from Charlotte to St. Louis and now to Atlanta and Nashville.

Will 3-4 years in high school in Tennessee give my teenagers a very rooted sense of themselves there? I would guess if they go to college there, that would make sense. Does this bother me? Some.

If they choose Georgia Tech (oy vey!) or even University of Georgia (one of the great loves of my life) then Georgia would become more prominent to them, and Tennessee would fade to a satellite home, like Missouri, and North Carolina.

(sigh) Truth is there is no telling where they will go next. For now I just pace and notice that they seem not to listen to me AT ALL, and they are "older now", "things are different now" and they are pushing me into the role I saw my mother take many years ago: back seat.

LOL - and this serves me right. I made my parents sit down and let me figure it out for myself and by G-d my kids are not going to let me tell them what to do with their lives!

The funny thing, now that I'm on this side of the kitchen table, is I see that my parents never wanted to control me or even, egad "hold me back". I felt like I had to rebel, against the most reasonable parents in the world, because that's what we teenagers do!!

Um, those teenagers.

Now I can see that working two jobs in high school and college, while a badge of honor, also doesn't really define who I am. It's just who I was - it's what I did to get by. I floundered through adolescence and college like most everyone else.

And it isn't what I want for my kids. But they will have to flounder and learn to swim for themselves.

(I hope they go to the Grandparents for lessons, some wisdom and money to fund their great adventures :D )

Like them, I always thought my friends would last forever, and that well-off friends had it made. Great clothes, nice houses, and beautiful cars. They had tuition paid for and money for groceries.

Now I know that my two closest friends in high school had alcoholism and incest in their "safe" family homes. They just put a pretty face on it all.

My kids didn't get every thing I wanted for them - a white picket fence, farm chores, horses, parents who stayed married, a home town they could always come back to. But neither did I, except the horses. And they have choices I never had.

But they got fresh baked bread - a lot. And chickens and fresh eggs for a few years. There was a horse next door once, great for petting.

Now they get a Mom fighting them for control. They think the sword I bear is to slay them, while I know I'm going to have to let them sever a different umbilical cord.

It isn't worth much if it isn't hard won, this independence. But secretly I cheer them with gladiator whoops and yells when they aren't looking, and don't worry so much about where Home is or will be. It's where we all gather together.

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