Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cooling Off

By the time I was eight years old, I knew I wasn't cut out to be a Mom.  It's not that I don't love kids, I do, it's just that I have always known I wasn't sturdy enough to be a parent.  "Sturdy" is the word I've always used to describe this feeling, even as an eight year old girl.

As the second of five kids, my Mom was pregnant for the better part of my younger years.  She was Supermom and loved being pregnant!  Mom was always happy, always smiling, always healthy, and always had more than enough energy for our growing gaggle of kids, as well as half the neighborhood, who were always at our house.

One unbearably hot August afternoon, my friends and I were sitting on the swing set in our back yard but were too hot to actually do the legwork to "swing".  I was praying for a breeze but all I got was a hot, humid, Ohio afternoon filled with mosquitoes and gnats.  None of us had any energy to run around or play in the yard that day.

We had a small cement back porch off our kitchen.  I could see my mother preparing spaghetti for dinner that night through the window and wondered why she as making something that required the kitchen to heat up. It must have been pretty hot in our house, which did not have air conditioning, because while this thought crossed my mind, Mom came outside.

She stood on the porch looking up to the sky.  I think Mom was praying for a breeze too, or maybe rain, to cool things off.  She was wearing her usual maternity "uniform" a big, sleeveless "tent" dress-- This one in deep orange with tiny yellow flowers.  I remember that dress because it made her tan look so nice.

Poor Mom was hot.  Really hot.  She was 8 months pregnant and huge-- all baby, all belly, and really big-- kind of like I remember her always being when I was a kid.  Her face was pale and surprisingly tired.  Mom usually never looked tired even when hugely pregnant in the summertime.

After a long hot minute, Mom reached down to the garden hose rolled up at the bottom of the steps.  She turned it on and for a moment I thought she was going to give us kids a spray to cool off.  We loved to run through the hose on a hot day.

Not this time.  Instead, Mom simply took the hose, water on full blast, slid it down the front of her maternity dress, hooked it into her bra, and let the water wash over her.  She put her hands on her hips, with her face still slightly raised to the sky, her eyes closed, and just stood there until she was totally and completely soaked.  We watched in speechless amazement as the water ran down the front of her, off the porch steps, and onto the lawn.   When the color finally came back into her face, a content smile crossed her lips. 

Then, without saying a word, Mom reached down, turned off the water, and wound the hose back into place. Before she stood up, she gathered the hem of her dress and rung it out, then she kicked off her Keds sneakers and walked back in the house.

My memories are vivid and that's exactly the way it happened.  It was the first time I thought I wasn't sturdy enough for motherhood.  I could never be that big, never be that hot, and would never have a garden hose down my dress to cool off.  Ever.  

I ultimately chose not to have children for other very valid reasons, but I never forgot that day.  Maybe it was my first "light bulb moment".

Since then I have marveled at my mother's energy and limitless capacity to love her children and grandchildren. Mom is young enough for great grandchildren as well and looks forward to loving them too.  She says she always knew she wanted a big family and with five kids she got it-- although I suspect she'd have been thrilled with a few more.

Mom has heard me tell the "garden hose down the maternity dress" story countless times but swears she has no memory of it.  And I'm sure she doesn't.  It's just the kind of thing Mom would say was "all in a day's work".  And with a house full of kids, she worked a lot, so it's no wonder she doesn't remember that August day.  

It was awful hot today in Los Angeles.  My godson asked if he could play with the garden hose-- which reminded me of this story.  But since LA just started water rationing, I made a bunch of water balloons instead.  We had a blast tossing them at each other until we were soaked and cooled off-- All in a day's work.

How do you cool off? 
Welcome to The Fifty Factor  -  Joanna

Photo Credit: © gbjedi - Fotolia.com

44 comments:

Mari said...

What a great story! The water balloons were a great idea. I'm wimpy about heat. When it's too hot I stay inside - air conditioning!

Holly said...

Oh Great Snarky One! Another thing we have in common is that I knew from an early age that I too, was not mother material, although I have turned out to be mentor and crone to a great many 'children'...

The part that absolutely thrilled me about this vivid memory of yours? The fact that that woman would stop to roll the hose back up is so very telling of what sort of person she is. Caring, deliberate. Controlling. And, specific. In everything.

What a 'cool' story on such a blistering hot day!!!!

Kristina P. said...

I can just picture her doing that, and what you must have been thinking. I often wonder if I'm cut out for motherhood as well.

Pati said...

Great tale of childhood wisdom! Loved it!
To stay cool in TX or FL I never leave the air conditioned house...in MA...walk on the beach, always a breeze. Right now we are just wondering if we're ever going to dry out! Still raining.

The Flying Pinto said...

I love that story! What a first AHA moment: ) It's funny because I was always on the fence about kids...never really a "kid" person. I knew I would have them later if I did. (I had Lucy at 38) What I find funny is most women's reaction to you if you're are not having children...one woman, after telling her I wasn't sure, said,"Oh, your poor mother!" To which I replied, huh? oh, no my mom is good, she had 2 kids!!"

anne h said...

Charming story...great memories...cool water balloons!

Brian Miller said...

what an amazing story, almost as much as moms. we would not "be" without them. i would not trade my job any day. nice mom, cracking out the water balloons too. takes guts, when kids are around.

ticklishfromadistance said...

Your story made me boo-hoo. You have such clarity, and I love reading everything you write. xox g.

lisa said...

What a wonderful and touching story. Isn't it funny the things we remember from our childhood?

I'm glad you're still able to make memories with her.

Betty said...

Your writing is so vivid! I could just see your mother standing there and feeling her "pain"! You should write a book, or maybe you have?
Anyway I think it´s a wise decision you made, knowing yourself well enough not to have kids. I stopped at two, because I knew I couldn´t handle any more. But I love them to death... :)

Maggi said...

What a fabulous story! I admit that I cannot live without the A/C...lol.

Alix said...

Joanna,

That lovingly remembered bit of nostalgia was beautifully written, sweet and full of vivid imagry. It paints such a stunning portrait of your ability to observe, even as a young girl, intriguing bits of whimsy. Why then did I have to shoo away the idea that your mom was perpetually pregnant because she invented the wet tee-shirt contest? Sorry. I have no social skills at all.

Rowe said...

It is winter in Australia at the moment. I find summer's heat to be quite oppressive when it is really hot. Last summer we hopped in and out of daughter's wading pool on our back deck on the ridiculously hot days. We spent one day/night at a motel by the sea with air conditioning and a pool after I'd had some day surgery, I wanted to rest and relax without feeling stifling hot while in recovery mode.

Rowe said...

Oh, yeah, my older sister and her hubby have no children by choice. They lead happy, full lives and keep themselves busy.

Peggy said...

Joanna;

Cool showers and air conditioning!

Not very creative, I'm sorry! W are having a very cool summer so far, I can't complain even a little bit!

diane said...

No wonder your mom was always pregnant, that was the sexiest pregnant lady thing ever. I bet your father would have swallowed his gum if he had seen her do that.
Word of advice: Don't compare yourself or your amazing attributes to your mother. xo

vicki archer said...

A lovely story Joanna and I love your mother's impetuosity....a wonderful mother she is I am sure, xv.

Sarah said...

Oh what a wonderful story!! Hmm I wonder if my kids see me that way - lol I have 5.. 28 down to 5 years. I can sooo see me doing the hose thing - lol. I often wonder about what my own will remember. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. BTW...I looove water balloons - giggle, snort!
Blessings, Sarah

grannyann said...

Real simple for retirees: Stay inside.

pita-woman said...

Great story, I invisioned every moment of that.
There's no shame in not having children. Or rather, preferring to raise 4-legged children. Children are fine as long as they belong to someone else. :)

Debbie said...

I think sturdy is just the nicest compliment a mom could get! And I love the water balloon idea.

Cathy Clementz said...

AS always, your talent had me right there on the porch with you and your hot friends.

How do I cool off? This year that hasnt' been an issue except for a couple of days last week. Mowing was a hot, dusty job and when I came in I washed off the best I could with a cold wash cloth and sprayed water on my dirty face...then sat in front of a fan.

3 Bay B Chicks said...

Such a fantastic, fantastic post!

I think we all have vivid memories from our childhood. What a gift to be able to share them with others as you have done here today.

-Francesca

lisleman said...

nice story
I sweat easily and dislike that sticky feeling. I have used a hose on my head before. Just the other day I took my hat and soaked in the lake and put it back on with the water still in it.

Washing my face off - always feels good.

Brenda said...

What a beautiful, vivid, memory.

Thank you for dropping by "down South" today. Come ovah any time.

sheila said...

Now THAT was a beautiful story! Very nice! I found a new ice cream the other day that cools me off! It's called Cupcake by Pierre's. OMG. How did I ever live without this? lol

Green-Eyed Momster said...

Oh, I don't know how I missed this one. You paint a beautiful picture of your Mom. I have been that hot. We were in Las Vegas. I didn't actually put the hose down my dress but I did spray the kids and let them spray me!

What a wonderful post, Joanna! I always love coming here!!

Big hugs!!

Christine said...

that's a lovely story, your mom is resourceful as all good moms have to be. I cool off with air conditioning and coke frosters! Also by wearing flip flops and shorts. Love summer.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I think I love that your mother did this in front of you!
Any woman smart enough to know she's not cut out for motherhood has got a LOT going for her in my book!
My favorite way to cool off when the muggy weather hits is to camp in the hammock on the porch--catch that evening breeze.

jane said...

beautiful story joanna. i could picture everything perfectly in my head. besos-jane

Lilly said...

What a wonderful story and you have a beautiful way with words. I think you have a lot of your mother in you. What a great example she set you. She clearly knew how to have fun too plus get the job done.

Of course we have very hot weather here too so being near the water whether that be pools, hoses or the beach is a must. When I lived overseas I missed our beaches the most.

I remember lots of hose fights as children and my mother used to make us ice cream and ice blocks (not sure what you call them there). Wonderful days.

I think its great we live in an age where women can decide what is best for them. Besides, think of all the children you probably have in your life anyway. I only had the one (plus Ian plus another Scottish girl that latched onto me while living there). It all works out the way it should.

Margaret Cloud said...

This is a very nice story, that water must of been so cold, brr. When my kids and grand kids were young they loved to run in the sprinkler. Thank you for coming by, have a happy and safe 4th of July.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Hi everyone! Thanks for your comments. They make my day.

My Mom is the greatest! I am so blessed to have a terrific relationship with her. And I'm blessed to have ten nieces and nephews from my three sisters and brother. I adore them all and enjoy every minute I spend with them. I may not have had children of my own but I have a wealth of kids of love in my life.

Keep those cards and letters coming! I love hearing from you! xo

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

I loved this story. I could picture every word of it. It was like watching a scene in a movie.

I was born and raised in LA and most of what's left of my family is still there. with my kids pretty much grown and independent this summer, I've been homesick for a California roadtrip and family visit.

Dave Pie-n-Mash said...

A great memory... I am in the midwest and although it gets hot, it doesnt get as humid as the eastern seaboard or OH. Being a Limey, I still have difficulty adjusting to the heat in summer, so I stand, star-like, in front of the airconditioner until I feel my skin get freezing cold.
Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier! I'll be back here too!

marjean said...

This was a funny post. It sounds exactly like something I would do, but then I live in the country with no neighbors. As a 50+ woman, I am so glad I found your blog...it's right up my alley

Kat said...

Isn't it funny what moments in time we remember?! I've spent some time this week with the water hose. While 3 of my grandchildren were here and in the pool, I would unwind it and water my plants as they swam and at some point I would spray them when they least expected it with the cold would squeel with delight. I sure hope they remember it!

Great post.

Hugs!
Kat

Chocolate Covered Daydreams said...

When I was a kid, the ice man would stop by and he'd chip off a chunk of ice for us to suck on. Now that I'm an adult, I like to still suck on ice and stay under the a/c. I don't like going out in 110 degree heat.

Loraine said...

We'll definitely be stocking up on the water balloons- there haven't been any rationing laws here yet but I try to conserve water anyway.

Lately the only thing that cools me down is ice cream or popsicles. I love making popsicles from organic yogurt and berries and honey and such. Planning on getting a yogurt maker soon!

smiles4u said...

I love this post. I think it's great that you had your light bulb moment of not wanting to have children of your own, while you were still young. So often, it's just expected, that when a woman marries, that eventually she will have children. Far too many women have children that shouldn't...that know they don't want any but go along anyways because of society/family pressure or expectations. Sad for the children and sad for them.

I could so relate to this story of your mom...that so could have been me walking out to the hose and doing that. I remember being very pregnant with little ones to take care of and having no air conditioning in our house. I would fill up their little pool and when it was got to the point I couldn't take it anymore, I would get right in there with them. Or I would run through the sprinkler with them...actually I think it was more that I stood there and let the cold water shower me....lol. Anything to cool off. Oh how I must have looked to those that drove by...lol

Thankfully it doesn't get that hot where we live. We do have air conditioning but only use it when it gets really hot or humid. Since we are cooped up on our house so much of the year because of snow and cold, we spend as much time outside as possible, even if it's hot. A lot of our front and back yard has a lot of shade because we have a lot of big tree's...that helps too.

We cool off by playing in the sprinkler or filling up the swimming pool. When it's my day off from work or the weekend we will go to the beach at a near by lake to play and cool off. We also have water balloon fights! I personally love water fights.(and in the winter I love snow ball fights :) Ice cream and pop cycles are almost a daily treat here!

English Rider said...

Hi, thanks for visiting me, I loved this story. I will return to read more. 50 is when you stop waiting for everyone in your life to do something for you. We have to take care of our own needs sometime. Shock, awe and disbelief abound in one's entourage.

Kimberley said...

This was such a lovely post. What a great memory of your Mother.

I always knew I would be a mother, but I think it never really crossed my mind just what an overwhelming, all consuming role it would be.


Of course, I do love it. But I never dedicated much real thought to whether I could actually do it well.

I think the world would be a far better place if women considered just what being a Mother was all about before making that decision and committment :-)

w said...

man. that was a good story. and you know i mean it because i have nothing else to say.

(drools for good writing)

yorksnbeans said...

I'm just getting around to reading some of your posts and they're great! We're about the same age, I'm 53 and I, too, never longed for kids. I love kids, but I never felt that strong desire to have them like other women do. I was the second child out of 4, the rest boys (maybe that's one reason). I didn't get married until I was 37 and we tried for a couple of years and then stopped. I knew I didn't have it in me to start a brood at age 40.