Now is the time to look back on how we were and the changes life has “gifted” us. Here’s one author’s insight.
Time Warp Holiday Party
When I was little, I believed that adults did very certain things depending on their gender, not that I knew what gender meant at the time. Women–my mother–stayed at home and kept it clean. Sometimes, moms went out to work, but work outside the home was rare, sporadic, and not central to the family. Moms played bridge, made crafts, mopped the floors, and baked angel food cakes. On the holidays, they were responsible for hams, turkeys, and Christmas cookies.
Men left early in the morning and came home to sit in a chair, have a drink, eat dinner, and fall asleep on the couch. Who knew what they did during the day? It was all a mystery, even after the day my father took me with him to work. We sat in his trailer at a drug company in Palo Alto. There were all the little gadgets he used at home, too, like the slide rule. But he was actually doing? Who knows.
On the weekends, other adults came over, usually just as we were going to bed, and then the real fun commenced. I would hear the clinking of ice in glasses, laughter, the shuffling of cards. Smoke filled the house, cigarette smoke. My sister Sarah and I sat on the step in the hall trying to hear what was going on. But we never figured it out. Adult life was another country, and we had no passage.
Now, of course, I know what it was like to be a stay-at-home mom with not enough cash and a car that broke down often. I know what it was like to go to an engineering job day after day, a job my father disliked intensely. I know what adults do, too, at parties, the way that the every day life can lift and fall away. People let go of the responsibilities and the burdens, and the children are asleep. Can I please have another bourbon and soda?
Last year, Michael and I went to a holiday cocktail party, and I realized how so much has changed from the late 60’s to now. It was very late in the day, but children buzzed around the adults, eating what they wanted off the table. If the children wanted to know what the adults were talking about, all they would have had to do was stop running and look up and listen. But because their parents’ lives are likely not a mystery, they went to play Wii instead.
And as I looked around, listening to my hostess friend tell me who was who, I realized without surprise that these people all had careers and jobs and lives–and a home and family. Thank goodness in forty years something has changed for the better. Since the days when Sarah and I were sitting quietly on the stair trying to listen to the party, women have moved further into education and the work place. Men have been able to share in the birthing process and child rearing, much to their joy and likely dismay. Children are no longer seen and not heard, and maybe heard a little too often sometimes. Let’s put it this way–no children were anywhere but where they wanted to be last night.
Change is hard to see, though, as you are living through it. And for a moment, I closed my eyes and imagined my mother and father here, materialized through time, space, and death to appear at this holiday party, the sweet thirty-year-olds that they were. My father in his suit, my mother in–say–a trendy pants suit, maybe something red. She’s wearing her cat glasses. His tie is thin and black. They look around, smile, ask for a bourbon and soda.
Jessica Barksdale Inclan (Being With Him, Intimate Beings, The Beautiful Being)