It is the place where you hang your hat. It’s where your family is. But as I age, the idea of “home” seems to be taking on a greater significance than ever before. I want to be here. I like to look around at things. I appreciate that I have one. I wonder what is causing my new appreciation of the building where I live, since I have been here for over twenty years.
Of course, I liked it the first time I saw it. It was old, big enough, in a nice neighborhood, and it had large rooms. It has been the place where my girls grew up. It has been very easy to decorate. But I wonder why I seem to need it more, now that I am getting older.
We do a lot of running around as young people. We travel, we have careers, and most of us have children. There are lots of outside demands. I loved all of those things when I was young, and home, to me, was not of tremendous significance, except at holiday time.
As a matter of fact, if you had asked me at age thirty where my “home” was, I would probably have given you my parents’ address. I lost that “home” when they retired and moved into a condominium, and I still feel the loss. I have only been back to the town where I grew up twice since my parents left it.
There is obviously a transition in all of our lives when we stop thinking of our childhood houses as “home” and begin to make ones of our own. The meaning of the term “home” must also change, from the location where we were nurtured (or not) to the one where we are the nurturers. It must take at least a generation for the new identity of “home” to sink in. I remember cherishing remnants of my childhood, such as my Grandmother’s dishes and certain knick knacks that my mother gave me. Now I am passing things to my children that I think will remind them of their growing years.
But this building that I live in is not important to me for the memories. So what is it about it that grows in importance as I age? In my case, I think a house is a symbol of freedom and independence. As we age, the specter of assisted living or “downsizing” looms. The idea of not being able to climb stairs enters the mind. Hefting grocery bags and toting heavy laundry baskets becomes a bit more difficult.
I remember my impatience to grow up. I hated other people’s rules. I wanted to make my own decisions and choose my own place to live. I needed to get out from under the lifestyle that my parents created for themselves in order to create my own reality.
It takes time to mature. We live in apartments. We have jobs that demand long hours of our time. We have children that engage our emotions and tire us out. Some of us are lucky enough to buy our own houses. We get nicer cars and maybe a few pets. We dig flower beds. We go to soccer games. In between all those things, we come to self knowledge and an awareness of what is truly important to us. Along the way, we add and subtract to the places where we live, until one day, we are finally “home.”
So here I sit. At home. It took most of my adult life to establish it. And now, as I contemplate the fact that I may not be able to live here until I die, I cherish it.
Last night I went ballroom dancing alone. At age 50, married to my high school sweetheart for 28 years, the mother of four children, two of which had leukemia, one gone and one living; a night purely mine, is a minor miracle. This morning I awoke surprised at my own happiness.
My memoir, Blood Brothers, is being released July 5th and I couldn’t be more proud. As good as life is as nurse, transformed into writer, today is lab result day, where a vial of blood dangles my youngest son, Jacob’s, future. Every three months, I hold my breath as the horror of the past teeters on the present, knowing his life can slip and bring my world crashing.
I drove Jacob to school recently. A Big Band song blasted through the car stereo and took me back to 1998’s swing dance class with Justin, my oldest. He had offered to take my husband, Dave’s, place a few weeks into the lessons. I’m glad he did. When Justin’s leukemia returned a year later, and he died, there was no room for dancing and no second chances.
The first time I went dancing, I felt uneasy about venturing out by myself but when Dave said, “Aren’t you going dancing with Richard tonight?” he said it in the same voice he used when one of his athletes needed encouragement. “You should go. Call him and go.”
All I could think then was, What planet have I landed on? Where my children are healthy and my husband says, “Go dance with another man”?
Mother, nurse, author, dancer. I revel in the hope of having another month of days this good.
This is my encore story.I love to share because I feel it gives hope and confidence to other women who may be in midlife and in a similar situation.
In 2007, at the age of 47 I had been a SAHM, homeschooling mom for 27 years. Although I was perfectly happy being a domestic goddess to my brood of eight children, one husband, and a handful of pets and chickens, life had other plans.
I wrote a small food blog to share recipes with my friends and children that lived away from home. It was a spare time thing that I enjoyed. Before long, it was "discovered" and I was asked to take on a network cooking blog.
As the blog grew and I found my voice I ventured into other areas that I was passionate about; organics, sustainable living, antiques, home décor.
Each small writing success was a leap in confidence and I had an income for the first time since 1979. That was certainly a blessing because within a few months my husband became disabled, lost his job, and unable to collect Social Security.
For the first time I was the breadwinner in the family. Although I was scared, I prevailed and my income continued to rise.
My husband did not handle the transition well and in 2010 we were divorced very close to our 30th anniversary because of his abuse and infidelity.
My confidence, and my income, has continued to soar – my future is brighter than ever. Despite the naysayers in my life my children have thrived through the changes and I have recently married a man who is confident enough to love an independent woman.
Marye, you are always an inspiration to me. Thanks for sharing your story!
I'm a 49 yr old woman whose "encore" started as a break from my political consulting firm and stretched into a whole lifestyle change.
For the past 2 years, I’ve traveled around the country - and around the world - researching and writing a book while renting out my home to vacationers. For 25 years, I had a successful political public relations career in California. I ran for office in 2006 and lost.
Now, I am writing a book about refugees. I traveled to Iraq twice: once just before the US invasion, and again 4 months later. I spent a summer volunteering w/Iraqi refugees in Syria. I call my book a political "Eat, Pray, Love." (Two chapters were published in a Random House anthology and one is included in Best Women's Travel Writing 2011.)
My entire life has changed: Last year, I criss-crossed America 4.5 times, unpacked and repacked 68 times and slept in 54 different beds! I'm loving the simplicity of going from managing a home, a business and campaigns to literally living out of my car while housesitting or staying at writers colonies. I especially enjoy an unscheduled lifestyle where I take advantage of last-minute opportunities. For example, I ended up speaking in Nashville, which led to my joining a delegation volunteering in New Orleans to help clean up the Ninth Ward. There I heard the same sentiments from Katrina evacuees as I'd heard from Iraqi refugees in Syria.
Advice: Be creative about assessing your assets. We have more than we think we have! Once I realized my home was not my biggest liability because of its high mortgage, but a potential income producer, I poured myself into making it guest-friendly. I now rent it out to people from all over the world while I live rent-free and write full-time. Who'd've predicted I'd housesit half the year in Mexico! It's not a lifestyle I'll have forever, but it’s given me unexpected financial freedom to pursue my passion.
I'm fascinated by the life you have created. It's kind of like going into a monastery -- not owning anything, not having a regular schedule, living simply, taking life as it comes. Lots of cliches come to mind, but mostly that "the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" one. You don't know where it will end, but every step is worth it.
In 2005, I left my job as a legal secretary, which plied me with benefits and bored me to death for 20 years, to write. I lived in a big house in Montclair which I owned outright, but where the taxes alone were $18,000 a year. My projected monthly income was my late first husband's social security payments, netting me $840 a month. I planned to spend down my savings.
I sat every day in my large office with a view of the garden, listening to the train whistle which had terrified me every morning as I ran to the train. Poor shlamiels who have to go into the city every day, I thought. I wrote every day until I got tired, usually about 6:00 at night, then I'd go into the kitchen and see what was hanging around to eat -- I lived on air, I used to say. I wasn't married, my children were gone, I didn't have a boyfriend, and I could eat a package of microwaved mixed vegetables for dinner if I wanted.
Every month I started submitting work to the literary press and got two things published, which proved that I was a good enough writer to get published.
After proving that and exhausting my financial resources, I walked into the office of the director of the first year writing program at Montclair State University and asked for a job teaching writing. I had taught ESL in Athens, Greece for six years in the 70's, and had an MA in English from 1963, and a pending MA in Applied Linguistics from Montclair State. She hired me. My pay was one-sixth what I would have been making as a legal secretary, but I was thrilled.
Oh my, do I love my job. After more than thirty years out of the classroom, it took me some time to become a good professor, but my students seem to like me a lot. They enter my class smart, ambitious, and hard working, but untutored in language. They have the ideas but they don't know how to express them crisply and colorfully. I empower them, and they delight and instruct me. Every semester they tell me stories I could never have imagined -- of an illegal immigrant father who found dignity when Ronald Reagan signed an amnesty, of serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, of crisis pregnancies and desperately ill mothers, of how wonderful it is to work in Kentucky Fried Chicken, of a visit to distant relatives in Puerto Rico who go into the backyard and collect breakfast -- pineapples off the tree, and eggs from the chickens.
Now I'm in my 70th year and looking forward to another decade or so of embracing a generation who really need me. I'm still writing and getting published. My gamble has paid off, and I am happy.