I remember being exhausted! The summer had taken a lot of energy. I’d been running a daycare out of my home because the year before I had quit my job at Dell Computers to take care of my little boy myself. He’d had surgery and a string of illnesses and I couldn’t bare to leave him with anyone else. If I was at work, all I did was obsess over the baby. If I was at home, guilt ate me up about missing work. I was angry and resentful and unhappy and finally this tall slender man who had recently transferred in as my new supervisor called me in for a talk.
“When that baby is grown up, there will still be tons of corporations who need smart go-getters like you to run things. You will never be able to go back and raise your kids though, so be sure you do it exactly the way you want it done.” Jim didn’t tell me what choice to make, but I felt like he was letting me off the hook. He was giving me permission to quit on him, and that’s exactly what I did.
My divorced (never agree on anything) parents were both shocked. How was my little family going to survive on one small income? We were already poor, living in a trailer, scraping our pennies, and yet the moment I left the corporate world, things got better, little by little, bit by bit. We moved into a 3 bedroom house around the block. My hubby got a raise. Just eliminating the hour long commute made room in our budget and we lived without credit cards or cable TV or vacations, but we never went without.
I started babysitting to supplement our income. Especially since buying things for Blondie and Dyl Pickles was a passion of mine. I loved to dress her up like a little Barbie Doll and he had every motorized toy known to mankind. I was Martha Stewart in the making. (Somewhere I have been hugely derailed from that.) My yard was pretty. Flowers were planted. I sewed dresses for Blondie and her playmates. And true to my nature, I took care of anyone and everyone that I thought needed me.
For a time, my nephew and niece lived with me. Long story short, their mom was having problems and they needed a temporary home, and I went and got them. So I had a 6 year old, a 2 year old, a 1 year old, and a very colicky, very cranky newborn. My days were spent with a house full of children. Usually I had about 10 kids here, all of them 6 and under. Everyday was busy beyond belief. I’d get up, pack my husband lunch, iron his shirt, feed the kids breakfast, feed the baby, and take everyone outside to play. I’d line the driveway with hop-scotch or tic tac toe. We’d color with sidewalk chalk. We’d ride bicycles in the street. We took walks with the wagon and hunted for rocks. We’d come in and have lunch, and then we’d read stories and make crafts. I must’ve went through six hundred glue sticks that summer. Somewhere in all that chaos my brother-in-law and another nephew moved in with us, crashing on our couch. I cooked massive dinners every night, always prepared to feed an army. (Funny, then I had no idea this cycle would repeat itself someday!)
So many times he’d stay up all night with me, rocking that fussy little baby, who only slept when she kept moving. Some days I would look around and wonder “is this really my life?” But we made it through that trial as we have made it through so many others. As the summer winded down, my sister was able to move with her children. Seeing them go was this crazy mixture of sadness and relief. School started and the house was suddenly empty. It was only me and Dyl Pickles each day. We would snuggle on the couch every morning. Sometimes we’d fall back asleep together, and it was so peaceful, just me and this toddler of mine.
Then one morning the phone was ringing. It rang and rang and rang. I tried to ignore it, to put a pillow over my head, but it rang again. Finally, I answered. It was Ricky (brother-in-law). “Turn on the TV, some crazy shit is going down” and when I did, I could not believe my eyes.
I was watching as the second plane hit the second tower. I heard Dan Rather apologize for letting a cuss word slip by him! I was glued to the stories of the fireman. My father is a fireman, all I could think of were the kids who were so proud of their daddies for driving those big red trucks who weren’t gonna see them at the fire station anymore and my heart broke for these people 1,700 miles away from me. I grew up in a patriotic home with a family full of military heroes, so I already loved Americans, but I’m a Texan, and those were New Yorkers, they were the object of my jokes and now suddenly they were my neighbors. They were my prayers.
Everyday the news of 9/11 filled my home from dawn until dusk. I listened to every person tell their story, I watched the replays, I looked at the pictures plastered everywhere, I wrote, I cried, and then I watched some more. Weeks went by. Finally one morning my little pickle crawled into my lap, and he said “mommy, if the TV is gonna make you cry again today, we don’t have to watch it.”
I knew it was time to start moving past it, but I will never forget that day, or how it changed us, and I hope you will always remember too!