Shortly before I got married at age 21 — going straight from my parents’ home to a new home with my new husband — my fiancé and I looked at places to live. At the time he was working at a hardware store in a strip mall that had a few apartments built into the upper level, and his boss, the owner of the complex, offered to rent one of them to us. At the same time, my future mother-in-law bought a duplex and offered us the upstairs for virtually no rent at all. Naturally, being poor as dirt, my future husband decided we would live above his mother.
I didn’t like either idea one bit (not to mention the fact that we’d be living above his mother). Because to me, living in the upper unit of an old duplex, or above a hardware store, was not following the path that Life was supposed to go. In my mind, a young couple got married, rented a square white apartment in a huge multi-unit complex, lived there until the first baby came along, at which point they bought their first tiny little starter home on a busy street, had another child, and then moved up into the much nicer house that they would keep until the grandchildren came along.
It’s a stupid little computation I carried around with me, knowing nothing at all about life as I did, and very soon after I married all calculations of the sort dashed head-first into the dust, when I quickly figured out that life was not going to go the way I expected. And it’s true, my life’s path has looked nothing at all like the one I had dreamed.
But I just realized tonight that I still hold onto some of those old, expired beliefs, in the form of some of the stuff that I carry around with me. Deep in my unconscious, I believe that I, as a 40-something mom, should own the following:
• An old, beloved quilt that once graced the bed of a family member, that is now used for picnics, tailgating, car trips and just plain comfort while watching tv at night.
• A pile of beach towels — maybe six or seven — that the kids can grab when they go swimming or play outside in the sprinkler.
• Sheet sets. Lots and lots of sheet sets. For all the guests we have, I guess.
• A pantry full of food. I mean full.
• A full set of baking utensils — cake pans, pastry board, pie plates, muffin tins, the whole shebang — for baking up lots of cakes and desserts.
• Canning utensils and canning jars.
• Yarn and knitting needles. Maybe even a darning needle, to repair holes in old socks.
Never mind that I don’t live that kind of lifestyle. I bake a pie maybe once a year, a cake even less often. The last time I canned, I hadn’t yet seen the age of 25. I only have one kid and he’s an adult with his own beach towel. He never had friends over to go swimming, mainly because we never had a pool. We don’t need enough food in the pantry for a family of ten. I rarely have guests. I don’t even have a guest bed. And is it even worth spending the effort to darn a hole in a sock? I don’t know, I’ve never tried it. Has anyone?
And that quilt? Well, since I didn’t think a twin-size Pokemon quilt quite fit the bill, and I didn’t want to get my beloved quilt ruined by dragging it around in the dirt, I bought someone else’s quilt from Goodwill, and that’s the one I use for picnics, camping, fireworks. It’s ugly and I don’t even like it.
Yet I still believe that I need these things to be the person I always thought I’d be.
Now that I’ve identified that I think this way, I wonder how many other things in my house I’ve held onto in the belief that they would somehow make me that Other Person?