Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Path Not Taken

Twenty five years ago our oldest daughter was born. And, no, although it was one of the most wonderful days of my husband's and my lives, I am not going to wax sentimental. (The main reason being she would not speak to me for weeks.) A quarter century (which sweetheart, much to your dismay, does not make you ancient) seems like a long time, but in retrospect it has been just a short moment in time.


The Dow Jones average was in its bull run and had just hit 1300. The "Big Eight" accounting firms were still in business and "Big Blue" was still big. We had yet to experience the Lion King, get know Forest Gump, or Harry Potter. And, Lady Diana, was the perfect princess living a fairy tale life. In a way, we all were. But we have since grown up. Think about it, we had no idea that we be going to war or our country would be attacked and citizens would be killed within our borders.

I have always said when I grow up I wanted to be my daughter. I wanted to be in her generation where women are not encumbered by the idea that one has a path to follow. You know, do well in school, go to college, find the right man (from a good family, mind you), have the fairytale wedding (that your mother always dreamed of planning), then settle down and have 2 children and a mini van, while learning how to make cup cakes, be a class mom, and master the rules of soccer. In other words - give your life to everyone, with nothing left for you. Of course, all the magazines touted how much you gained from the experience. And, you had the satisfaction of raising (or rearing as my Granny would remind me) two wonderful loving children, that even to this day amaze me. (And, I have no regrets about that.)

Then you wake up at 50 and find that the witch is dead and everything is in color. And, before you is the yellow brick road that no one told you about. "Toto, we are no longer in Kansas." My life can now begin. Is this what "empty nesting" is all about? Is this the prize egg? If you survive, then you get a second chance? My Mama never told me, but then again, Mama never told me a lot of things.

Our daughter, on the other hand, found the yellow brick road early on and chartered her own course. No one told her she couldn't. She never asked. In her twenty five years, she has been around the world, seen the ruins in Angkor Wat, been on the river Ganges, flown in a hot air balloon over the Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania, lived a summer in a the poorest country in the world (Malawi), was almost lost at sea, survived a crisis aboard a Chinese Air flight some where in the orient, and, if that is not enough, she just happened to be booked on a flight from Heathrow to JFK the morning of the planned terrorist attacks on the planes in London.

When the small college she loved as a freshman became too "provincial" after her overseas experiences, she had no compunctions about changing schools. And, do "we" live on campus? Oh, no. "We" manage to negotiate a rent low enough to live in downtown Charleston in the historic area. And, all the while keeping full time nannying jobs (that pay exceptionally good money - in cash) while finishing school in four years.

Her children will have a rich life because she will no doubt pass on that "life has no boundaries" attitude. That is if she ever thinks that they are old enough to cross the street by themselves. I wish I could take some credit for the choices she has made, and more importantly, the confidence with which she has made them. We tried to instill in both our daughters, among other things, that curiosity and passion are two of the most important virtues. Perhaps, they took. Perhaps, I should have taken my own advice and I, too, would have discovered the ruby slippers earlier.

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