The things that shape who you are.

04 October 2010

When I was in grade school, my friend Jeff’s mom would leave us little plastic cups of milk with lids on them in the fridge when I spent the night.  Our cereal bowls were laid out on the table along with spoons, different kinds of cereal to choose from and a cute Flinstones vitamin next to it.  There were never knock off vitamins or knock off cereals.  She also came up with spelling games after school, I would slip on his shoes that were near twice the size of mine to make it equal and we would take a step when we got a word right.   She got out the medical text book in sixth grade when we were studying about sexual health {in a very Catholic way} and very patiently explained to the two of us the parts that were skipped over and answered the questions we didn’t have the nerve to ask in front of the entire sixth grade.  I never thought that I would be her.  I don’t know that I even knew it was possible. 

I always thought I would work because my mom always had to. 

My mom was seventeen when she had me.  Looking back, it’s really amazing to me that she and my dad were able to do it.  They got married the month before she turned eighteen, he had just turned nineteen.  A {very young} recipe for marriage disaster in this case.  I know I didn’t know a thing about who I was at that age, so I can’t imagine that either one of them could have known either.  My Meme still says to this day that pushing them to get married wasn’t the smartest idea, but that is what you did back then when your seventeen year old comes to you and tells you she is pregnant.

They lived in a little apartment for awhile before buying a tiny little house in a sketchy neighborhood.  It was the best they could do at the time and even then, it was a stretch.  I remember most of our neighbors houses smelling like bologna and ketchup, my babysitter’s breath always smelled like Pepsi.  All of this was before I was six, and to this day, those smells skeeve me out a bit and remind me of poverty.   Though to be fair, it was more lower middle class than poverty. 

They were divorced when I was five.  I thought it was my fault because of one terrible fight they had about turning the radio up.  I felt caught in the middle.  And scared.

I was determined not to live that life, but I, or my sister for that matter could have just as easily slipped into that cycle.  It happens all the time, every day.  Girls having babies.  It happened to friends of mine in high school.  It happened to Lyndsey’s friend in the eighth grade.

Eighth grade. 

It was hard for my mom as a single parent and I watched that too.  She very luckily had an incredible family who supported her through the times that she didn’t know what she was doing, or was broke, or was at her wits end raising two little girls when my dad was living in California for many years of our childhood.

That’s not to say that he didn’t have it tough either.  He was a mess when he couldn’t make it home for Christmas or our birthdays or for our cheerleading or volleyball or plays.  He was lonely.  He missed a lot and he knew it hurt.  I know it festers in his head on a daily basis, thinking about the kind of parent he was when we were little.  Often times he didn’t know what the fuck he was doing when two little girls hopped off the plane when school let out and stayed with him all summer.  He tried to cram a year of parenting and a year of good memories all into one summer.  My sister barely remembers that part.

I don’t know why I’m thinking about all this, other than the infertility ordeal has babies weighing heavily on my mind.  It makes me think about things like adoption and wondering how different my mom & dad’s life would have been if they had chosen to give me up.  I have to say, if it was me counseling my seventeen year old pregnant mom, that is probably what I would have told her to do.

And my mom could have just as easily not been living in her 5,000 square foot loft overlooking the city.  She could have been the one in an endless cycle of debt and just stretching to make ends meet who never finished college.  Lyndsey and I could have continued the cycle, maybe we wouldn’t have gone to college?  Maybe we would have had babies in high school.  And my dad?  He could have stayed in California and would have missed out on our junior high and high school years.  Elise and Christopher wouldn’t be our siblings. 

It’s amazing and weird what shapes you.  The crappy house in the sketchy neighborhood, the young parents, the incredibly supportive extended family, the single parent, the summers in California, the watching both of my parents struggle and work and dig themselves out of what could have been their reality, Jeff’s mom being the mom that she was, all of it made me who I am.  Even the infertility journey.  All of it is a part of me.


Missy said...

This is an awesome story.Very well written!
I too believe that our experiences shape who we are.

Jennifer said...

Loved this post. Thanks for sharing. Was your house on Birchwood the skeevy one? I thought it was nice.

belles♥mom said...

Your story is so touching, having a supportive, loving family makes such a HUGE difference and you have one of the best! It's nice to have a little background in who made you, you thank you so much for sharing!

MommyLisa said...

Its really true. I often wonder what differences would be if... and I know my mom does too. She wonders what our lives would have been like if we had stayed in our small southern MN town instead of moving to the burbs of Minneapolis...and other crazy things.

We wouldn't be in the same place - we wouldn't be who we are.

I try not to think about it lately because I feel stuck myself.

Lisa said...

Wow, this was powerful. And strangely familiar. My mom was 17 when she got pregnant. She married my dad and I was born about 7 months later. Amazingly, they are still married 34 years later. But I can relate to a lot of what you shared here. A lot. It IS amazing how occurrences in our lives shape us. Like you, I could have easily gone down a different path and become a super young mom, or skipped college, or who knows what. There were many tumultuous years with my parents but somehow we all made it through, and are probably stronger for it. Thanks for sharing.

Ashley said...

Awwww Michelle, my friend. I miss talking with you. I think we all have things, shaping circumstances and such. Ours happen to be similar. But knowing such we both have chosen to take our lives in different directions than the ones before us did. It's like a big map and compass metaphor that I am really too tired to explain right now. you bunched even if my comments are incoherent.

Just A Normal Mom said...

Wow, my childhood follows a very similar path. I can relate to a lot of that. But those experiences do shape us into who we are, don't they?


MJ said...

This is really beautifully written, Michelle. It sounds like everyone in your family did the best they could, and that you grew up with a lot of love. Family of origin stories are fascinating so thanks for sharing this. You're introspective as sh*t.

Anonymous said...

You surprise me everyday, with another facet of you that shows it self. Awesome story!!

Alexis said...

I think it all shaped you to be wonderful and marvelous...really I mean it!!

Elise said...

STILL cry every time I read this post! Love you.

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