Waring- somewhat sappy post ahead. By this point, if you’ve read some of my posts, it probably seems that I am a bitter whiner about things from the past that I cannot change. Maybe I am.
But I am also SO grateful. Despite everything, I *kind of* have everything I ever wished for. I also have things I never knew could be wished for. Getting here is just not even close to how I thought it would look.
In HS/College I envisioned myself moving to Europe and making a living as a musician. MAYBE I would marry, but probably not (because commitment- ugh, so old-fashioned, right?). I thought I would never have kids (because really, who wants to be a part of all that screaming in the grocery store)? I never had even a picture in my head of being a mom of 2 BOYS (all my cousins and neighbors were girls growing up, boys are sooo yucky!), much less an INVOLVED mom. I thought I would live a sophisticated “musician” life, mostly on my own, with lots of time to ponder life and go for long quiet walks. And I thought that would fulfill me.
Now as I approach my 50th birthday, I am/have been a piano mom, band mom, soccer mom, flag-football mom, taekwondo mom, bike team mom, tennis mom, church choir mom, and now boy scout mom. AND a mom of a kid with 2 disabilities (ADHD/Diabetes). And I’m OK. Because here are the things I have (making a list of all one if grateful for is good for the soul):
Family: A husband, who is NOTHING like my Dad. 2 boys- not perfect, but they’re mine. We are all loud, crazy, and often gross. Not what I pictured, but I love it. It’s so different from my own upbringing.
A multifaceted career: Growing up, all I wanted was to be a professional flutist. And guess what? I was! For 10 years I made my living by performing with different orchestras around the US. Then I got pregnant, decided I didn’t want to perform full-time anymore, and went the Music Education route. Got my Masters in Music Ed as a working mom. Whew! Then got a job teaching Elementary music. Then got pink slipped. Not good- but then immediately found 2 part- time jobs teaching preschool music. This was SO NOT in the plan I’d envisioned for myself as a professional flutist and educator… but I absolutely LOVED it, and that phase lasted SIX years! I learned to play the ukulele, sing, and only brought my flute to class for special occasions. I learned to sing songs using funny voices and dance around (simultaneously!). I discovered talents and joys I’d no idea I had, and got so many hugs daily from grubby little Pre-K hands who couldn’t say my same (because of all the R’s: I was Ms Barda, Ms Baba, Ms Bwabwa, Ms Bahbwa, etc.). As my own kids got older, an adjunct college teaching position came my way, so I took that and phased out the preschool music. Again, I learned new things about myself as I was asked to teach college classes I’d never taught before. Last of all, I have created my own business, which is a joint freelance enterprise / Flute studio. I am good at teaching flute students who are very gifted, and those with special needs. And this fulfills me more than performing ever did. Not. Even. Close.
Friends: 1- A small circle of close friends that I can absolutely be myself with. They are also moms, so our time together is limited, but I love them dearly, and they “get” me. 2- A wider circle of fiends that includes music colleagues, people from church, fellow band/bike/boy scout parents, and neighbors, who also get me, or at least accept my liberal Yankee oddball parts in this very Red area.
A church: I grew up Episcopalian, and got tired of it as a teenager. In college, I went to a service or 2 to see if it stuck. It didn’t. So I tried Quaker-ism, the Community of Friends. My grandfather, who I greatly admired for his calmness and dignity, had been a Quaker, and I loved the idea of seeing God in every man. I went to about 5 Quaker meetings in Boston. It almost stuck. After meeting my husband in grad school, there was no church in my life for awhile. After we got engaged we started trying churches- Methodist, Lutheran, and Episcopalian. Finally found St Paul’s, an Episcopal church in Evansville, IN- the priest was young, fun, and related the scripture to current events and everyday life. Finally, it stuck!
(More about our church) After getting married and settling in Birmingham, we tried MANY Episcopal churches. We finally found one where the priest and other parishioners remembered us, even after one visit. St. Thomas. We are still there today. And that brings me to this… Through St Thomas and the community, I have things I never knew existed. A safety net of humans. Support. Presence and help during the hard stuff- and there has been a LOT of hard stuff. Death. Illness. Job slandering. When I was growing up, I didn’t see support. My parents were an “island” with very few friends. No one helped us when things were hard (except once, when my Dad’s back went out- thank you Mr and Mrs R). We didn’t help others when things were hard. I didn’t know this was a “thing.” Looking back, it’s a bit startling and disturbing. My parents were not “helpers.” Even in my early professional life, we didn’t know any “helpers.” When I was still a symphonic musician, I got pregnant with my oldest son. I thought my musician friends would surround me in love. They did not- in fact just the opposite- they ostracized me. None of them had kids. It’s no accident they are no longer my friends ;)- and I am no longer an orchestra musician.
Community: The week my oldest son was diagnosed and hospitalized with Type 1 diabetes, our basement flooded- TWICE. AND I burned my corneas with an accidental splash of peppermint hand soap (who knew?). Couldn’t see for 2 days. All of those things happened within 7 days. Who did not help us? My parents. Who did? My church. My community. My neighbors. My son’s percussion teacher. My students and their parents. The church Men’s group rebuilt all of the affected basement floor and drywall. Students and parents brought food to the hospital. His percussion teacher brought him a new snare drum pad, saying he had to get better so that he could practice and make All-County Band (he did!!). People in the T1D community came forward and let us know about a regional network of support and a special diabetes camp (which he is attending at this very moment as a counselor-in-training!). I didn’t know this level of care, concern, and support existed.
Maybe it’s that I grew up in the NE, where people are more independent, or maybe it’s just that my parents were so bad at showing concern for others that they pushed away any “circle” we may have had. Or maybe both. I’ll never know.
There have been lots of other hard moments in our lives. Maybe I’ll put those in another entry. I am so thankful- unbelievingly so, really- that we have found a protective circle of humans. I will always be disappointed that it doesn’t really include my parents or sister, but I am growing closer to acceptance.
This is my life. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. It just in no way resembles what I thought I wanted, from the outside. On the inside, I am beyond fulfilled- in ways I never could have imagined.