Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A measure of success -- jcarolek

Until my 20th reunion, I had never considered attending one of these affairs. I don’t like parties and I generally feel I can make better use of my time (productively). But that year, my best friend from high school was making the trip, and I decided it was worth my while just to see her. We arrived within minutes of each other, and, though we had not seen each other in at least 18 years, we fell into easy conversation, as if we’d never missed a step!

Our lives were so different from those we had “planned” as youngsters, and yet we found we were satisfied with the way they had turned out. She was a proud and loving wife, and mother of seven. She was a stay at home mom, and full of energy and enthusiasm…she carried the 10 month old with her to the reunion. I was the mother of two, in a not so happy union with their father, but doing very well in my career. Both of us had a great deal for which to be thankful.

My friend allowed my children to babysit her baby in the hotel room, while we went to the first night of the reunion. With our nametags slapped on our chests, we bravely entered the room. Immediately, we were accosted by old “friends.” Now, I will tell you that, without the nametags I would not have known who most of them were, and even with name tags, I could not recall being friends with a lot of them! But, there I was, being hugged by the big athletic jock who would never have even spoken to me in high school, and by the ex cheerleader who scorned me for my “funny clothes” in those early days.

Of course they had all the regular contests, about the most changed, the one who traveled farther to come to the reunion, etc. etc. My friend won the award for the most kids. We had a lot of fun talking with some old friends we actually remembered as friends and made friends with those who would not speak to us in high school, lest we tarnish their popular image. But I could tell my friend was getting a little ticked, as the night went on.

Later, when we returned to our rooms, she told me she was getting ready to scream if one more person asked her if she was “done yet,” regarding the number of children she had. I was appalled that people had been so rude. This was a very intelligent, Bryn Mawr graduate, successful in her career woman who, after marrying her perfect mate, had elected to have and raise a large family. She was committed to her life decision and was tired of apologizing for it!

I told her it made no sense to me. Had she arrived announcing she had seven million dollars, rather than seven beautiful children, NOBODY would have asked her if she was “done yet.” For some reason, they implied that either she simply was not smart enough to know how to prevent pregnancy, or that she was too “unenlightened” to understand the 2.5 children with two working parents climbing the career ladder that was their version of the American Dream.

I wonder how many people think those with large families are two stupid to understand how to prevent having more children or are unenlightened? I, for one, am impressed with my friend who chose to measure her success in the raising of a fine family, rather than in the raising of a fine retirement fund….well, I really don’t know what her retirement fund looks like, but they do have a lovely huge log home on nine acres in western PA. I haven’t returned for another reunion. My 30th went by last summer with hardly a consideration. Perhaps I try again at the 40th! By then, everyone will be concerned with their grandkids and maybe my friend will be “accepted” for what she is…a great person with a whole lot of love to share!

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