Few memories exist for me before we moved to the house next door after our leased house was sold when I was five. One of those earliest memories was wanting to be a movie star when I grew up. I told my mother that I would get a new dress everyday and that I'd give the old dresses to her. Daddy loved movies, but our family did not go often. Movie stars or movie magazines were not part of our family's life. I can't imagine I had seen many movies by age five, but somehow the pop culture of the 1930s had convinced me that a movie star was a good thing to be.
By the fourth grade, my new friend Bobbie Jo and I decided we wanted to be doctors--but be called a nurse! Again pop culture influenced me because women were "supposed" to be nurses and men doctors. However, Daddy thought I could do anything, and I did finally decide I wanted to be a doctor and be called that. That remained my ambition until age 14 when I became a freshman in high school.
Maybe it was pop culture again, but I have always believed it was biology that kicked in. I knew I wanted to be a mother. No one encouraged me in this or probably even thought about it for me--but I knew this was my desire. I began to debate in my mind whether I could combine that desire with a desire to be a doctor. That is where pop culture did have its sway. I was not sure a woman could successfully do both. I knew there were a few women doctors in the world, but I had never seen one or even heard the name of one.
My mother was a working mother called back to teach mid-year in a country school when the young male teacher was drafted after Pearl Harbor. I always felt a little deserted by this although there were many advantages to me and the family because of her working. Yet the women's magazines that my mother took did seem to want to convince us housewifery and motherhood was not only important but was compromised by working outside the home. Betty Friedan documented this later. When I read her in the 1960s, I remembered some of the writings she pointed out as influencing us.
As a high school freshman, I talked to my parents about my doubts if I could be both a doctor and a mother. (Oddly at that age, I did not doubt I had the academic ability to go into medicine. Daddy's opinion of me had became mine. However, I later realized that I was saved a great deal of stress in later years, because I do not believe I could have done sufficiently well in the science and math required for medicine despite being interested in science as a young person. Lack of confidence was not part of my decision making.)
As we talked, I am sure Daddy may have been disappointed because he had wanted to be a doctor and did not have the funds for medical school. He would not have expressed any disappointment however because both my parents were strong on people making up their own minds. In fact, they had taught us to be such independent thinkers that I would never have accepted any idea or ambition they tried to force on me, but, of course, they didn't.
n fact, it was Daddy who said maybe I would make a good writer. I remember exactly where I was standing in the living room when he said that. I think at that moment I became a writer. Looking back, I have no idea why he said that because I was not a child who started writing novels or poems in grade school--or even journals. My mother had always wanted to write, so I considered it respectable and admirable. Maybe her desire is what made Daddy casually suggest it as a possibility for me. I do not remember ever thinking of such a thing for myself before his suggestion, but instantly it seemed right to me. I felt it was something I could combine with motherhood without too much conflict. (What did I know? Ha.)
Throughout my high school years, I planned to be a writer. A special friend Lynn Dillow Borde also wanted to write, and we wrote and shared our short stories, poems, and journals with each other. I only knew about journalism as a college major for would-be writers, so that was my choice. I didn't know English might have been a good major. There were no guidance counselors in those days. I knew I wanted to "collect experiences" so I could be a better writer. I envisioned myself spending two years here or two years there until I got married, so that I could understand people and life and write about them.
In a high school senior end-of-the-year booklet, there was a page entitled "Someday Somewhere Maybe." On that page I wrote: "I'll be living happily married with a large family. This of course would be best if first I completed college, live in Greenwich Village for awhile, and do some work in the field of journalism. Time will tell!" I can't say this entry said much for my writing skills.
However, that early teen thinking lead me through college and the following summer in Greenwich Village. After a year of teaching in a Chicago suburb, Gerald led me into marriage. I have had experiences as a secretary, high school teacher and community college teacher, family literacy worker. and full-time farm wife and mother. I've enjoyed them all part of the time at least.
I was correct though that being a mother was the most important thing I could do with my life. Actually I was not very good at that. I look back in horror at how little I knew about children or housewifery, how ill prepared I was. I was sometimes emotionally abusive, and I would not want anyone to imitate my mothering skills. I think I might have done very well if all I had to do was rear children--but combining that job with keeping a house clean, doing enormous amounts of laundry, and preparing and cleaning up after three meals a day--sometimes for extra farm workers--was really more than I could handle in a calm way sometimes. (Sometimes I did good.) Oh, there was also gardening and canning and freezing to keep the food bills down. I never worked on a tractor or in the barns although I did keep the farm record books for several years. Oh, and in my leisure time, I wrote. Not much but some.
If I am honest, I must evaluate myself as a not very good housewife/mother/writer. Yet, I have had the amazing success of having four great children and now wonderful grandchildren that I am very proud of. I think they have all made the world a better place! That is really all I care about. I have had people tell me at times my writing has taught them, helped them, or entertained them. There have been many rejection slips and jobs I applied for and didn't get, but those really do not bother me now in retirement. Nor do I care that my housekeeping and meals were sometimes inadequate. I just wish I had been a better mother. But I have to be satisfied that I grew up and followed a dream and I guess it has turned out all right. I still don't understand people or life, but I doubt if anyone does. I can write about what I have observed and experienced. For someone like me who really does not like fantasy, that is satisfactory.
Causes Sue Glasco Supports