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Parental Retirement

March 30th, 2008

If I were on my mom’s track, four years ago I would have had me, and in 30 years I would retire. It was a bit of a novelty to me that, on my 30th birthday, my mom would have her 60th. Four years later she retired from a lengthy time serving the Everett public. (at right: my mom and the roses my sister brought her)

As head of the children’s department she held sway in the redesign of the library when it expanded from the original small, brick building; she also kept my hands full with more books than I could possibly consume. As a youth, I had a voracious appetite for literature which she kept well-fed; some were meant for me, but many were books she had to review or read so she could give book talks. Looking through the photo album her staff put together was a trip into the past.

Since I was a kid, I have a child’s recollection of this time. Because of all the books she brought home, I think it was 6th grade I tested in with an 11th grader’s literacy; this promptly gave me a complex leading to nearly every traditional English teacher trying to hand me off to some other poor soul. I think 10th grade, when I was in a combined social studies / English honors class, was the only time I wasn’t a total pain in the ass. Mr. Kimball, who promoted his quirkiness, was a Vietnam vet tasked with introducing us to Siddhartha, Apocalypse Now, Heart of Darkness, and other, more classic works. Ms. Mukai, the social studies component, was way cool because when she saw the Led Zeppelin sticker on my binder told me she’d *actually* seen them play in Seattle. I was an insta-fan.

Typically my dad has always had the higher-paying job working in the ultrasound field. But being attached to more…shall I say “fringe” projects…his work was off-and-on. When it was “on” he was at the office sometimes until 8 or 9 at night. I’m not sure if I was born with this trait or learned it subconsciously, but I think I have the same work ethic. Still, my mom went into full time work where she stayed, probably in part because she likes to be busy, that is, until March 28, 2008. (at left: my dad laughing with Jodi, one of my mom’s long time children’s librarians)

She eased me into cooking with notes like “put the casserole in the oven at 350 degrees at 5:00.” My dad did the more “artsy” cooking, dominating the Japanese cooking and anything having to do with the grill (go figure), but my mom planned the week’s meals while working her random schedule as a city public servant. Spaghetti sauce, casserole, meat loaf, roast, curried leftovers, and the occasional tuna casserole. Today, I’ll make that dish–minus the peas–as a kitschy joke, even though I must be honest here: I kind of like it. I think the key thing to note is it’s inexpensive and VERY easy to make. A dish a mother of three who works full time could whip out with ease.

The ’80’s weren’t the easiest for my parents. They have a big house–a custom built dream house–that, understandably, they wanted to hold on to. And with the ambiguities in my dad’s work (like mine, but a lot more stable) and the government pay my mom had it meant many long hours for them and for us, in the winter, it was warmer to do our homework by the wood stove. Being non-parent-focused, as many high school kids are, there were some winters I found myself in my bedroom wrapped in a red fleece blanket (which I still have), wearing fingerless gloves and seeing my breath in the air. Later I would warm myself by the fire, rewarding myself with a couple chapters in a novel my mom had brought home and a bowl of Cheerios liberally doused in sugar. Which, of course, was the exact time she wanted to catch up on my life and my day at school. Now, as an adult, I understand that. But at the time I just wanted to read. And here’s an embarrassing but super cool fact: I had to fight to buy lunch at school like all the other kids. My mom got up early enough to make healthy lunches for all of us AND cook us breakfast. Which, because I’m usually late, meant I ate on the way to school. Boy howdy.

The whole point of recalling these moments is largely to pay tribute to her in my own way; as an adult struggling to hold onto my personal dream (the work I do) and not having a house, spouse, or kids when–by my mom’s schedule–I should have a four year-old and a one year-old. All I can say is I’m impressed with what she has achieved both at home and in the work place; I would’ve done it–I would have had to–but probably not as well. (at right: the librarian staff)

I guess that’s what retirement brings on: reflection. It’s a milestone in life and, while my dad is busy as ever doing contract work, it seems they’re taking more time to enjoy all those moments the three of us children monopolized. My mom even bought another minivan. I inherited the last one–upon which I cut my mechanic’s teeth–but this time they might follow the lead. They’re looking to do some road tripping. I figure they could put a bed in the back, with storage beneath, some velcro curtains, a cook kit, an iPod, and off they’ll be on the road trip I wish had the time for, except I have to work.

Huh. Sounds like a bit of a role reversal.

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  1. Nadia says:

    Gives me hope that my kids will appreciate my sacrifices … though it seems I’ll have wait 30 years!

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