hazy shades of winter

The year I turned 40 Todd and I celebrated our eighteenth anniversary. We have two children, ages 5 and 9.  The year my parents turned 40 they celebrated their twentieth wedding anniversary.  They had three children, ages 18, 13, and 9.

On the surface it may seem like we shared a similar path, my parents and I. But I was 38 the year my then-7 year old son arrived and not-quite-40 the the day we met our 5 year old. Contrast that with my parents who welcomed their first child before they could legally drink. At an age when I was staying out at bars until 2 am, my Mom and Dad were raising a hormonal teenager, a defiant seven year old, and a free-spirited toddler.

I don’t know how they did it.

Growing up, we struggled.  With Reaganomics failing to trickle down and steel mills closing up all across the rust belt, my Dad was often out-of-work.  My Mom found full-time employment as a clerk at a local department store, a position she held for years even after my Dad had achieved long-term job security.  Throughout the years we lived in a series of rented homes.  We were frequent visitors at the food bank.  We bought groceries with food stamps. There was no extra spending money, no family vacations.  Even McDonald’s seemed a luxury.

Of course at the time we never knew this because at the time my parents made sure we always had the things we needed.  We may have bought our clothes from the sale rack at the discount store and eaten an unusual amount of Hamburger Helper, but for the most part it seemed we did not want for anything.  Looking back I don’t remember the struggles.  I remember the Christmas Santa Claus came to visit us at the farmhouse.  I remember the make-shift living room floor picnics at the house on Market Street.  I remember the elaborate birthday parties on Buffalo Street.  I remember the unconditional love.

I don’t know how they did it.

My parents at age 40 had a dramatically different life than I have at age 40.  I hold a mortgage with the promise of home ownership.  I take annual trips to Puerto Rico.  I buy clothes on sale out of choice, not necessity.  The struggles and sacrifices of my parents gave me this life; I would not have it otherwise.

So I hope my struggles and sacrifices, however trivial in comparison to those of my parents, serve as teaching moments and provide for Chris and Elijah the tools to achieve their dreams.  I want to create memorable birthdays and Christmases and living room picnics and offer to my sons the unconditional love my parents so freely gave to me.

A 40 like my 40, but better.

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