I'm home from my first real estate class.
I don't count the one Tom and I took when I was pregnant with our firstborn. That was almost thirty years ago...and to be honest, it just didn't click with me at the time...maybe because I was pregnant, attending class after working a twelve-hour shift.
Neither of us intended to become realtors. We were taking the course for an overview of Texas real estate; we knew we would be buying and selling soon.
But now it clicks. Helping people, looking at houses, getting outside, being challenged, always something new to learn...
Tonight, in between taking notes on my energetic instructor's lesson, highlighting text in my book, and sipping coffee, I was tempted to mentally kick myself for not doing this last year. Or thirty years ago.
But... I know in my heart I really wasn't ready until now.
"Like this," Ann said, showing me how to weave the strips of bread dough around a Pyrex dish to make bread dough baskets like the ones we'd seen at Houston's Westheimer Art Festival. It was circa 1977 in her mother's kitchen.
She made it look so easy, but when I attempted it, my fingers got in the way. The strips stretched too thin and broke.
She laughed. "You better be a career woman!"
I nodded. That was already my plan. I was going to be a chemical engineer...
"Why don't you have a real career?" my daughter asked me about ten years ago.
I can't remember what triggered the question - probably some issue about money. As far back as my kids can remember, there's always been an issue about money, because there's always been only one major breadwinner. First me, then their dad. For them.
I'm not sure how I answered her question. It required a complicated explanation, and even though I have a tendency to give long, drawn-out answers, I bet I didn't mention how I never planned to be a stay-at-home mom when I was growing up, or how, all through three pregnancies, I longed for the day I didn't have to leave my babies behind and venture out to work a twelve-hour shift at a chemical plant where I might die in an explosion.
(Worst-case scenario, but it happens, and I'd fought fires out there, and when you have babies at home, that possibility always hovers in a corner of your mind.)
I probably didn't tell her how I'd had to go up the chain of command at the plant to fight for the right to use some of the three weeks of vacation days I'd earned to stay home with her big brother when his asthma first appeared.
Or how I would arrive home some mornings after working twelve hours to nap on the couch in between her brother's nebulizer treatments and take him to see the doctor as soon as the office opened, my eyes foggy with sleep.
I might have tried describing how rewarding it was to be home with them as they grew, to have the flexibility to focus on my family and its needs, to be with them when they were sick, to volunteer my time for a dozen worthwhile organizations, to chaperone field trips...to just share memories of time spent together.
I'm not sure what I said. All I remember is the pang I felt in my gut when she said it, because that's where I still carried the dream of finishing my degree and having some kind of career.
"If you're a realtor, you will be showing properties on the weekends..." my son told me just last week. "You'd have to be a workaholic for awhile to gain some territory."
Working weekends? Workaholic? I realized my kids know nothing about my work history...or my work present.
I had a plan when I dropped out of college: I'd get a job where I could make enough to support myself and go back to college on my own. The only job that fit that description was "Chemical Plant Operator", so I went from plant to plant, all along the Houston Ship Channel, turning in one application after another.
Long story short, at nineteen I was hired by DuPont to help start up a new methanol plant. After a few months in portable buildings, learning about the process, it began: twelve-hour shifts, almost seven days a week.
For thirteen years, through my wedding, my husband's college career, and three pregnancies, I worked nights, days, weekends, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter...twelve-to-sixteen hours at a time. I've had a mortgage payment since I was twenty.
I went back to school during my last pregnancy, taking writing classes at night at the community college, swapping shifts or using vacation so I didn't miss a class.
But of course, he wouldn't remember that. And he probably doesn't remember me going to class when he and his siblings were young, staying up for hours after reading them their bedtime stories to do my homework or to study for a test, munching on popcorn to stay awake.
And he probably doesn't realize that now...mornings, nights, weekdays, weekends, 24/7...I'm either working at a paid part-time job, working on a photography or jewelry gig, blogging, marketing myself in photography or jewelry or blogging, slowly making progress on one of my many fictional works-in-progress...or reading up on how to improve in all of the above.
But how would he know? When my kids are home, I still focus on them.
Oh, mirror in the sky
What is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail thru the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Well, I've been afraid of changing
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I'm getting older too.
Seasons have changed. I feel it in the air...I feel it in my heart. This is the path I'm supposed to take. If I'm going to work this hard, I'd like to have something to show for it.
It's time, and I'm ready. And I know how to work.