Another point of view


Last weekend we hosted my brother and his family, my Mom, and my sister and her husband.  They all drove an hour or more to come to our little town to attend a “Fireman’s Muster”, which is a crazy competition in which antique fire trucks try to outdo each other in sending streams of water as far as possible.

I was happy to have them all at my house, and excited to cook and to be the hostess at my humble abode.  But I was more than a little embarrassed to know that they would be seeing my poor, low income, struggling town when they came here.

You see, my mother lives in an upper middle class community of mostly healthy, mostly solvent, mostly successful professionals.  My brother and his family live in one of those historic New England seafaring towns that boast of whaling captains, colonial villages and families Who Came Over On The Mayflower.

My town is poor.  We used to be a textile mill town (in the 1890’s) and a woodworking town (in the 1930’s).  We have had some dairy farms and some small vegetable farms.  But right now, we are a community of lower income, poorly educated, under employed people who are struggling to stay afloat.

I was ashamed to have my family see my environment.

And tonight I attended a birthday party for a friend in our small town. He was turning 50, and a whole group of our friends had gathered to celebrate with him.

As I sipped my wine and nibbled on baked brie, I was somewhat on edge.  Most of my friends have children who are attending good colleges, working toward very practical degrees.  And in the past few days I have had conversations with friends whose kids are in great schools, or have big money jobs, and when they have asked about my kids, I have felt a little, well, protective.  My boys are still figuring it out, and they live in an “interesting” little house with a group of other 20 somethings.

So I stood at the party tonight, feeling defensive about my kids and their life choices.

And here is what has happened to me in the past week. Here is what proves that I am a shallow, conformist, peer pressured jerk.

Last weekend, my sister-in-law spent a couple of hours wandering on her own around my town.  When we got together that afternoon, her comment to me was, “What a beautiful little town! The houses are so gorgeous! You must love living in such a quaint and historic place.”

Um.   Really?

And tonight, at the party for our friend with the highly successful kids, one of those kids asked me, “Have you talked to Matt about going to New York for the Occupy Wall Street anniversary?  I sent him a message, because I really want to go with them.”    Um.  Oh?  And his sister said, “When your kids went to Occupy last fall, I was so excited!  I told everyone, ‘I know those kids! They are from my town!’

I didn’t know what to say.

The conversation swept around me.  The young people from our town were telling each other about where they were when they heard that my three children had been arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge as part of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in October of last year.   I heard about how teachers at our local High School shared the emails and Facebook messages from my kids.

Apparently, they are local heroes.

In our historic and quaint little town.

Who knew?

I guess it takes a different point of view, from a fresh pair of eyes, to make us appreciate what we really have in our lives.

Tonight, I’m incredibly proud of my activist, hippy children.  I’m also proud of my beautiful, struggling little town, where friends can gather for a birthday party under the late summer stars.

13 thoughts on “Another point of view

  1. There’s a great story about a woman who was driving through a rural area when she had a flat tyre. She got out of the car to change the wheel and discovered she had no jack and therefore couldn’t proceed. She couldn’t believe it – how could she have been so stupid? Why hadn’t she checked that everything was in order before she left home? What kind of an idiot acted that way? As she stood on the country road she saw a farmhouse nearby and decided to go there to see if she could borrow a jack. She trudged up to the house, continuing to berate herself for her stupidity. She knew that whoever lived in that house would think she was a fool who didn’t even deserve help. She knew they would be talking about her idiocy with their friends later. She knew that she wouldn’t be able to defend herself if the farmer asked why she had started out on a car journey without checking her spare wheel etc.
    Girding her loins she knocked on the door and the farmer opened it. He looked at her, obviously wondering who she was and why she was there. She looked back at him defiantly, her head full of her mistakes and what she imagined he was going to think and say. She took a deep breath and narrowed her eyes – “Keep your f****** car jack!” she shouted and turned on her heel and walked away – leaving a bemused farmer at the door…

    I love that story – and yours – because it shows how much of what we think of as reality is actually happening inside our own heads.

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  2. I know just how you feel! I’ve got 2 really smart kids and neither one has gone the traditional route. One’s an official hippy working barefoot on an organic farm right now. I actually live in one of those “richer” towns, though not all of us are rich. I think most come from out of town. But I feel the “shame” of living in a rundown house. Although I think often that I would like it to be different, I know that I got here living from a “different point of view” and personally, I like mine better than a lot I see out there.

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    • Cindy, we really have to get our boys together! Tim has a good friend who is also working on an organic farm. Matt has expressed an interest in farming/homesteading and it sounds like with the music and the back to the earth lifestyles, they have a lot in common with your boys.
      Honestly, when I am in my right mind, I absolutely KNOW that they have it right, and that the pursuit of money is not the right way to go.
      I just slip sometimes……

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  3. Momsheib, I once heard a line in a sermon forty years ago that blew me away then and has never left me: “Comparison is death.” In everything you own or who you’ve produced, it all seemed to diminish when you compared what you have to what others have. I’ve read your excellent writing, relished in your wonderful ability to tell stories, and been moved to tears by your teacher’s heart, and I never once wondered if you were rich or poor or what kind of house you lived in. You were and are just Momsheib. From your storytelling you seem to have all you need and are overflowing with love of family. Nothing else can compare with that. Thanks for sharing this story though, because do you want to know a dirty little secret: we all do it! Cheers!

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    • Thank you, Eleanor! Sad but true fact: I suspect that I write these posts knowing that I will get the mental head slap that I need from my blogging friends! So bring it on: I KNOW when I’m being a shallow fool. I just need reminders to knock it off…..!

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  4. Not all success stories are the kids who went to good colleges, and did it in 4 years and then got great jobs or pursued further education. Not all success stories are the big paychecks, the big houses, the perfectly manicured lawns, and the perfectly manicured people living in those big houses. To me, success stories are the people who were true to themselves all along, the kids who had such a good relationship with their parents that they could say “This college thing isn’t for me” or “I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up”, the kids who worked hard whether at school or in the job field or in other pursuits (such as their love of music), the kids who established a good work ethic and didn’t give up while finding their way. Who cares if they took the curvy, scenic route instead of the big 4 lane highway. The scenic route always has the better view and is the funner ride where you remember the things you saw along the way.

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    • I know…but sometimes, remembering these things is harder than it should be! I had a snarkyish comment made about one of the kids that sort of set the whole thing off. Ah, well!

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