Leave Day Lesson

Determined not to become a Walter Mitty, I took a day of leave before plunging into the fall semester. It began at the track with a three mile walk with Joyce, progressed with a day of shopping with Elizabeth, and ended with a light repast with Otis in our newly painted dining room (Russet 5). In some ways it was a typical summer day, but in others it was especially special because I seemed acutely aware of all the good stuff going on in my life.

First, there’s Joyce. She’s always a pleasure to walk and talk with. As we go around and around and around the tree lined path, we share confidences, offer advice, give encouragement, and provide insight to problems and situations. She is ALWAYS able to see the presence of Heavenly Father in her life, and it’s refreshing to chat with someone who’s so in touch with the divine.

This morning I told Joyce about a book the book club discussed last month, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Autobiographical, the book told of the author’s childhood which was “challenging” to say the least. Raised by eccentric, intelligent, but neglectful parents, the author and her siblings were what psychologists would call “resilient.” Despite poverty (or perhaps because of it), the Walls children learned to be resourceful, strong, and motivated (seems like an inadequate word, but I can’t think of another at the moment). For instance, Jeannette hated her teeth but knew that braces were out of the question so she engineered some of her own. Rather than have her classmates see the holes in her pants, she painted her legs with a marker that matched her pants. Instead of going hungry, she scavenged through trashcans. Once, they even ate butter.

Anyway, it’s a great read, and I recommended it to Joyce. But get this. Moments after talking about the hardships of the Walls family, I mentioned to Joyce that I had tons of work to do before leaving to meet Elizabeth in Florence. There was laundry to attend to, and what a drag it was to wash, dry, fold, iron, and put away clothes! Plus, there were a few dishes in the sink from the night before when my sweet husband had helped himself to brownies and ice cream. After my “chores,” then I had to take a quick shower before meeting Elizabeth.

Joyce listened to all of this without interrupting, and suddenly it hit me that I was being impossibly ungrateful. The Walls family had few changes of clothes, and the few garments they owned came from thrift stores. Forget washing, drying, and ironing them. You’ll have to read the book to learn how ingenious the children were in that department. Brownies and ice cream? Never. Pinto beans were standard fare. I don’t recall the family taking too many warm showers; in fact, when living in West Virginia, the author dreaded the spring because that’s when people really began to notice how “rank” they were.

Before I left Scott Park this morning, I had a new attitude. I’m grateful for clothes, warm water, soap, electricity,  an air-conditioned home, and a reliable Camry that enabled me to drive a comfortable 50 miles to meet my beautiful daughter.

Author: jayne bowers

*married with children, stepchildren, grandchildren, in-laws, ex-laws, and a host of other family members and fabulous friends *semi-retired psychology instructor at two community colleges *writer

2 thoughts on “Leave Day Lesson”

  1. I am thankful for air conditioning in my house, car and office.
    Can you imagine not being able to shower and change clothes in this heat? I am also ashamed at the amount of stuff we throw away in our household. “Wish You Well” by David Baldacci deals with hardships of living a “rustic, rural, poverty stricken life by his mother’s family.

  2. Thanks for responding. I’m a little ashamed at the amount of “stuff” we throw away in our household as well. When we recently moved, I took several loads of clothes and household items to Salvation Army, and this was AFTER I had given several things to the children. Just this morning I was thinking about how many pairs of black shoes I have, especially when thinking about Diamond in Baldacci’s book.

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