Finding One’s Own Middle Ground

Karen - Chesapeake Beach, Maryland
Entered on June 9, 2010
Themes: family, setbacks

My parents, baby boomers, came of age in the 60’s – caught between the cookie-cutter, American-dream ideal of their parents generation, and the free-love, open-minded mentality that followed. As often is the case, the two lived their lives unaware of how these differing mind-sets would shape who they would become. They went to high school, fell in love, were named “best this” and “most likely to that” – the golden couple who would trade in their homecoming crown and tiara for a pair of matching wedding bands.

My parents continued to be happy into their twenties, united in raising three small children and working hard to have a comfortable home and food on the table. Life was good.

However, in their latter thirties and early forties, as my sisters and I grew into teenagers and young adults, my parents started to question who they were as people – not as spouses, or parents, or employee’s, but at the very core of themselves. What they found was that, as individuals, they were very different. My father strayed back to his hippie roots – material things and earthly comforts taking a backseat to discovery, self-actualization, and art. My mother took a job working for a judge and looked forward to a life of stability, upward movement, and, eventually, a comfortable retirement. The two fought a lot then – the silent, spirit-stealing kind and went through periods of separation, my mother bravely plugging along to maintain her middle-class ideal, my father living on a house boat and vagabonding down the coast in search of his.

As a young adult, I struggled with this mixed bag of beliefs and approaches to life. Would I disappoint my father if I took the traditional route and went to college? Would my mother look at me and see wasted potential if took a year off? And later… am I shallow for wanting to keep up with the Jones’s? Or, is denouncing the need for material things just a coward’s excuse for not challenging oneself? These were the questions that stifled me – I couldn’t decide who or how I wanted to be.

By thirty, I had a realization. I believe in finding one’s own middle ground. For me, it is a life shared with my husband and sons, living on two teacher’s salaries. It is one of comfort and stability that provides the means for a modest home, which is decorated with sea glass mosaics and hand-carved furniture. It is one of cleanly cut grass and family barbeques, which turn into late nights, spent singing old Simon and Garfunkle tunes to the imperfect strum of my father’s guitar and my mother’s slightly too operatic harmony. It is one where I cherish the diamond necklace that my husband gave me on our fifth wedding anniversary… but not as much as the one my four year old presented me with just the other day – one made entirely out of purple flowers, tightly knotted together by their stems.