In the early years of my life, I’d don my red flannel pajamas that Mama made for me and climb into Daddy’s lap for a story. After he finished The Gingerbread Man, I could usually talk him into reading The Three Bears and maybe even one more—unless Mama came along and interrupted our reading session by ordering me off to bed.
“That’s enough for tonight, young lady,” she’d tell me. “Off to bed you go.”
“But, Mama . . . .” I’d plead.
“Don’t ‘But, Mama’ me,” she said, taking my hand and leading me off to bed.
Lying under her warm homemade quilts, I’d fume. Somebody was always ordering me around, telling me what to do. I could hardly wait until I could do what I wanted to whenever I wanted to. The years stretched long and dark before me back then. I waited and waited and waited for that magic age to arrive, the age of autonomy, when no one could order me around anymore. I’d be my own boss and stay in bed till noon if I chose. I’d wear my pajamas all day if I felt like it and eat candy for breakfast. Maybe at 18 or 21 . . . .
Eighteen came and went. Then I found myself on the University of Georgia campus, and I was suddenly free. I could sleep in and skip class if I’d played Bridge all night the night before. If I were too tired to walk up Lumpkin Hill for my 8 a.m. French class, I could skip it. Mama was back in Hazlehurst and had no idea what I was doing. It didn’t take me long at all to figure out that I was free to flunk right out of college if I chose. It was my decision. Nobody would wake me up and send me off to class. Fortunately, I “wised up” (as my Daddy always said) before it was too late.
Maybe someday. Maybe at 21.
At 21 I had my first child and what a task master he turned out to be. I was up at 3 and 6 to feed this hungry creature during the night. He never really slept well, so I didn’t either. I jumped at every cry and realized that I’d never before had such a boss. He was hard to please.
Not only did I have the freedom to care for him 24 hours a day, I could also choose to earn a living and pay the bills or not. My bosses were easy to get along with compared to my cranky baby, but they wanted things their way and on their schedules.
Along about the time I had my second child, I had a major epiphany: life is a tough task master. Someone said once that all we have to do is die and pay taxes, but from my experiences, I’d say he was high on something when he wrote that. Dying or paying taxes won’t calm a screaming baby, and the baby takes precedence if there’s a sane adult in the room.
There is hope though. When I retired a couple of years ago, I discovered that I’m as close as I’ve ever been to being my own boss. I go to bed when I choose, but if the book is really good, I can read until I fall asleep in the wee hours and sleep in as long as I choose the next morning.
The babies are grown up and gone. Only Charlie the dog and Blues the cat order me around these days. If I’m writing, Charlie slams my keyboard drawer shut and demands that I play ball with him. He pushes his nose between my back and the chair to make me get up and take him outside to play ball. He is relentless.
Blues, our finicky 16-year-old cat, wants fresh water. He surely cannot be expected to share a water dish with a slobbery black dog. And while I’m up, I can probably get him some fresh food, too.
The animals don’t speak English, but they communicate very well indeed.
Granted, I’m still not completely in charge, but I’m close.