Age Twenty-five: The Turning Point

So we come to the end of the October Memoir and Backstory Blog ChallengeThanks to Jane Ann McLachlan for proposing this challenge that has taken me places in memory where I would never have gone otherwise. At times I believed I’d have nothing to write, but it seems memory begets memory.

The end of the challenge brings me to a strange place in my personal history. If you’ve been following these posts, you know that by the time I turned twenty-five, I had two little boys. I was a stay-at-home mom. I couldn’t imagine a different kind of life. I was happy. I thought we were happy.

Christmas

Our first Christmas in the little gray house, my husband and I decided to have a party. I cooked all the food, I cleaned, and I decorated, using lots of freshly cut evergreens and magnolia my parents brought the day before. They took both babies home with them, so we would have our party and the rest of the weekend to ourselves. It was a rare occasion. My husband was in his internship year by then, which meant more nights on call, more time away from home.

We had a great crowd, mostly medical school friends, good food, good wine. I wore a new dress, and I remember feeling pretty. After the last guests left, we stayed up late, picking up glasses, cleaning up spills, putting away food. I was excited and pleased at how well the party had gone, and I kept trying to get some kind of response out of him. I wanted to be told what a good job I’d done. I had done it for him, after all. But I got nothing. He had seemed withdrawn and sad for weeks. Every time I’d asked, he would say he was exhausted, which was true. His schedule was grueling. But I kept after him that night until he told me. Yes, there was something wrong. He wasn’t sure he loved me, he said. Maybe he loved somebody else. What? We had been married three years. We had two children.

I didn’t sleep that night. The next morning, he got up early and went hunting with friends–another surprise. He hadn’t told me he was going. I was left alone, distraught and uncertain. I missed my children. I called my parents, thinking I would just check on the kids, and my mother immediately knew something was wrong. I told her. I’ve always regretted that.

By the time my husband came home the following afternoon, the little boys were back, too. He had made his decision, he said. He wanted us. Just like that. That easily. And I believed him.

We would stay together for a long time after that Christmas. I gave birth to two more sons. Did I think that having more children would hold him? No. I’d wanted a house full of children, remember? It didn’t matter. He left anyway.

I blamed myself. He was the one who left, but it must have been my fault. All my fairy-tale notions of love and marriage? Destroyed. I hated myself for not knowing what I might have done differently. Oh, I knew all the self-talk and the psychology. I was a psych major, after all. I went for counseling. But still, it was a long time before I could look anybody in the eye and carry on a conversation.

I wasn’t writing back then, but I was getting ready. I believe the surprises, the unexpected turns, the complexities of relationships, the betrayals, the losses, the long years of trying to hold a marriage together, of getting up in the morning and putting on a fictional face to the world (“How are you?” “I’m fine, thank you!”), were the catalysts for stories to come.

I hope stories will surface out of this challenge. We shall see.

Thanks to all of you who have read and followed these little pieces of my past. I hope you’ll come back soon and see what else I have in store. Or in story.

If you participated in the challenge, what did you gain from it? If you were a reader and/or follower, what have these memories sparked for you?

30 thoughts on “Age Twenty-five: The Turning Point

  1. Gerry, You may not have considered writing memoir before this, but you write it very well. I’m\ve been very moved by many of your posts and always captivated by them. Your honesty and openness are remarkable. And how true this is – how often do we blame ourselves when someone else hurts us?
    I’m so glad things have worked out.for you, and doubly glad that I got to know you through this challenge.

    Jane Ann
    http://www.janeannmclachlan.com

  2. I really love your style of writing. Very easy to read and held my interest. That said, I’m sorry you went through this. No one should ever have to go through something this painful!

    1. Thanks, Tammy. I hate to sound like my grandmother (who was the eternal pessimist), but most of us do go through hard things, at one time or another. We’re lucky to survive, and it makes us who we are. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Those are some dark moments but you’ve have written them so poetically. “Memory begets memory” – that’s a great title if you ever put this series in a book. We all have a book in us I believe, but only a few know how to perform the magic of laying it all out. I’m glad you found writing. There’s a quote that I hate from the movie The Five Heartbeats. The writer brother has a critic write about him saying something like he is going to be a great writer someday when he suffers more. I don’t like that quote at all but there is a lot of truth to it.

    1. Kenya, I’m struggling right now with a character who isn’t “full” enough, and it’s probably because I don’t have enough raw emotion invested in her. I’m holding back! So as much as we might dislike that quote, it’s important to translate the tough emotions to characters. Thanks for reading and commenting. Welcome, my new friend!

  4. Wow, this is such a moving post. I’ve missed the last few, and now I’ve got to catch up. I’m sorry to hear about the tough things you’ve been through, but I think you make a great point that many of these moments have become catalysts for future stories. I look forward to reading more. (Also, I think you’ve got a whole book-length memoir in here. If you need a change from fiction, try it. Your insight is so clear, and your writing is so moving.)

    1. Oh, Emily. I don’t know about a memoir. As I told someone else, I don’t have anything sensational–just a pretty ordinary life for a woman of my generation. But thanks so much for the high compliment. I appreciate it, and I appreciate your reading. : )

  5. My heart fell for you when i read of his “not sure.” I loved these pieces; i should be doing all sorts of virtuous writing projects, but your posts called to me. Wonderfully and dearly done. Hugs and love, esther

  6. Over already? Time sure flies when it’s not yours. *L* That was a lot of fun to read. I love the pictures, too. Thank you for sharing, Gerry!

  7. What a ride! I haven’t missed a single blog even though I was late getting into them. The early years took place in the town where I graduated from HS in the same class. You, consequently, sent me on a similar journey.

    Your persistence, openness, and questions have prodded me to spend some part of each day thinking through some aspect of my personal and family life, regretfully without the same discipline to transfer them to writings.

    This blog reminded me of one of the hardest life lessons I learned : Life is not fair. Live a good life, do all the things we are taught in our developing stages at home and church, yet, life can still be tough. Love may not be returned, friends betray or deeply disappoint, sorrow and suffering are strongly attached to our joys.

    More and more I am learning to be less judgmental of others and their actions and coming to greater acceptance of saint/sinner within me.

    Peace!

  8. Gerry, big hug to you even after all these years. Hugs can never feel wrong. I bet, just like me, you are grateful for your children and having them in your life and that feeling never stops. I don’t know if I would be here without mine. I guess that’s what the 200K custody fight was all about…survival. On a much happier note, my three have multiplied into seven! Bet your’s did too. So many more children to love. Thank you so much for being brave and writing your memoirs. I’ve loved every post and now you feel closer to my heart and more special than ever. 🙂 (Ok end of gushy comment)

    1. Veronica, I don’t know if I would have survived without my children, either. They were my reason for getting up in the morning and pressing on. Mine have multiplied, too: the four sons, their six children, and my husband has two children and three grandchildren, so we are quite a clan. I was talking with friends this morning about things we can’t control and the turns our lives have taken. I have no regrets about what might have been. I wouldn’t take anything for my “boys,” and I believe I’m where I should be now. Thank you for following the posts. We have discovered a kinship here, haven’t we? Blessings to you! (And you can gush *all* you want! I love it.)

  9. Some of our experiences have been eerily similar. And yes i fully believe that without this hardship, that frankly both of us could have done without, we have come out stronger, clipped, concise I guess, more emotionally in touch and yet able to look at an emotion and wonder whether to bother.. hmm.. excellent story, I hope you have enjoyed writing these as much as we have enjoyed reading them.. c

    1. Thanks, Celi! Knowing how busy your life is, I’m honored that you stop by here to read. Yes, “stronger, clipped, concise, emotionally in touch . . .” I like that description! Forged, maybe. Is that a good farm metaphor? I did enjoy the writing. I’ve never considered myself a nonfiction writer, and I started the blog with much trepidation. So we’ll see how it goes from here.

  10. Beautiful, Gerry. I was reading an interview with writer Colm Toibin yesterday; the reporter observed the long pauses in Toibin’s speech which he attributed to Toibin having stuttered as a child. Similar to what you said about having not been able to speak of how you felt about things as they fell apart, I was just thinking about Toibin and wondering how many writers began as people not allowed to speak for one reason or another. I’m glad you shared this. It’s powerful and sweet, and a story I can relate to.

    1. “. . . how many writers began as people not allowed to speak for one reason or another.” Elissa, this is such an interesting observation. I expect it’s true. Even when I was growing up, I often felt outside myself, watching, observing. It took me a long, long time to find my voice. Thanks so much for reading.

  11. Congrats on completing the challenge!

    I really enjoyed reading all of your pieces. They helped me because you’re a bit younger than my mother. My memories kept being about her, but I can’t ask her about them now, so your perspective gave me some insights. Thanks!

    1. Joy, I so appreciate your reading and commenting, and I’m glad these pieces opened up some memories for you, too. I’m not sure where I’ll go now . . . I may be lost without the challenge!

  12. I really enjoyed the journey, Gerry! I thnk I saw that last part coming. Maybe because I had a similar experience with my first marriage, but mine ended early and we didn’t have any children together, she cheated on me and even though I tried to work it out she really wasn’t interested .

    My second one took, and is still going strong and with four children. I hope things worked out in the aftermath of your marriage. Warm regards.

    1. Thanks, Todd. I really appreciate your coming along with me. Writing these pieces has been interesting and sometimes hard (like this one). As for the aftermath–yes, things did work out. I’m married to a wonderful man who’s my best writing critic and cheerleader!

      1. I am so happy to hear that things worked out great in the long run! I see that you are wondering what to do next, but maybe you should keep going with these and write your memoirs. No time like the present. I have not been a non-fiction writer either except on my blog, but keeping these memories alive and cultivating the lessons from them is a worthy endeavor. Either way I wish you the best and I will be following your blog. =)

      2. Thanks, Todd. You’ve been one of the faithful! I don’t know about writing a memoir. I think I’ve led a pretty ordinary life, so I don’t have anything sensational to write about. This has been enlightening, though. I wish you the best, too, and I’ll be over to see you!

  13. Gerry, your stories, from the beginning until now, drew me in in unexpected ways. I smiled when you were smiling and cried when you were crying. I dare say you lived a fairly normal life as many other women have had similar experiences. Thank you for being so truthful and vulnerable as it has helped me to personally face some heart aches too but to also remember some really good times too. Keep going please!

    1. Thank you, Deborah! I really struggled with this last one. I was holding back, and not until I wrote something that choked me up when I read it aloud did I feel that I had something worth posting. Thanks for reading and commenting. I really appreciate your sticking with me!

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