When I was 16, I was dead set on becoming a band director. I was the president of bandgeekdom at my high school. I was halfway through freshman year with that one purpose in mind, and so I spent my time in the band room practicing and studying music. When I wasn’t practicing, I was writing. I learned the importance of stealth in order to write in class when the subject bored me or when the impulse to write down an idea refused to be deferred. I was not always successful. I also learned that other teens can be amazingly vindictive to each other, and then turn around five minutes later and be just as complimentary, as long as the clique was out of ear shot. I was never a popular figure in school, and was amazingly secure enough to not really care.
The year was 1991. I am terrible at placing historical facts with dates. I simply can’t get my brain to pull an arbitrary calendar date together with a human event of any magnitude. I have trouble remembering the years my children were born or when my own parents passed away. I must take the time to remember where I was living, how old I was, or where I worked at the time and do some math.
This being said, I looked up the major events of human history that occurred in that year (Thank you, Google):
Collapse of the Soviet Union
Copper Age Man Found Frozen in Glacier
Operation Desert Storm
South Africa Repeals Apartheid Laws
As a teenager tucked away in the rural Great Plains, the world events had little impact on my immediate life. I was aware of these event and understood the importance and meaning of each. I was not a political- nor economic-minded individual. My most immediate goal was getting through high school and off to college.
My mother turned 59 that year. She was born in 1932, had her first child at 18 and her seventh child at age 44. It was around this time that she received the diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, the condition that would ruin her dreams of one day living by herself.
Our generation presumes this is a part of living life, at some time having an apartment of your own, time to yourself to do what you like when you like, no children or spouse obligating your time to domestic endeavors. Mom went from her parents’ house to her husband’s house and had been taking care of her children for 40 years. By getting pregnant, she forfeited the opportunity to attend university and earn the degree for which she had planned and earned a hefty scholarship. She wanted so much to have her own space just once in her life.
This was about the time in my life where she told me very clearly, “Don’t get married until you’re thirty and don’t have kids until you do something for yourself first.” Another favorite Mom-ism was “Don’t be a sheep.”
She did not need her two daughters giving her any more grandchildren, since an older brother was already taking care of that. She did not want to see her daughters giving up their dreams of education and career being tied down with little ones. At sixteen, I didn’t fully understand why she was so insistent on the matter, for I didn’t know any of the story behind her long marriage or the tenuous connections between herself and her eight siblings. I listened and saved the information in the files of my brain, for my mother rarely led me astray with her advice.
However, before I heeded this advice, I started dating the worst boyfriend of all time, a guy a couple of years older and a few bananas short of a bunch. He turned out to be a psychotic, creepy depressive constantly claiming he was going to kill himself until I finally said “Fine. Do it and leave me alone.” And not even that got rid of him. I was not completely free of his influence until he was committed for a few months and I was able to leave town. The fear of him lingered for years, occasionally wondering if he was going to show up at my door. At some future point, my parents received a phone call from the parents of some new girl psycho-boy was dating, inquiring about his disturbing behaviors.
I now wonder if I, like my mother and three of her siblings, will one day develop the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, and I wonder what my own children, now 10 and 2, will be like when they are 16. Raising two kids is difficult enough. Raising seven would be far beyond my abilities. I’m glad I held onto my mother’s advice to a sixteen-year-old girl.
Only Sixteen – Daily Post Challenge