“You Get What You Get!”
Growing up with three sisters taught me to share at an early age. We were four very different personalities, born in a five-year span, and living in a village of 200 people. The number one daughter, oldest by eighteen months, and I, number two, shared a bedroom while the remaining pair of siblings bunked together in an identical sized space. There was a small bathroom connecting the two dormitories with one sink, a tub and a toilet. The arrangement worked. It had to.
Individually, each girl was assigned simple dinner-time chores which rotated throughout the week on a numerical basis according to her birth order. We were not allowed to deviate from “the chart” or negotiate for a change. If it was Wednesday, I, number two, was setting the table.
Practically from birth, I understood my parent’s rules and expectations. That was a good thing since there was little discussion or small talk regarding the details. It was a typical Baby Boomer childhood and I would not trade its simplicity and fond memories for anything.
Dinner time was well orchestrated. Nightly, Mom prepared a delicious home-cooked meal; we performed our assigned tasks without complaints. Arriving home from his nearby small construction company in his yellow truck, Dad briefly sat on a stool at the kitchen with a cocktail to unwind after a long day. Then, the six of us sat down to enjoy a nutritious family meal in the dining room which was set with everyday china, silverware, cloth napkins and hand-woven placemats. Usually, tall, cream tapers were the main source of light in the formal dining room. Throughout the meal, the slender cylinders slowly burned down, dripping residue on the crystal holders like thick globs of melted ice cream from the bottom of a sugar cone on a hot summer afternoon. While leisurely consuming our food for the next hour, both parents and children took turns sharing a favorite portion of the day. Layer by layer, like the candle wax on the lips of the glass receptacles, the conversation evolved and created another evening chapter of our family saga.
My favorite dessert was a bright, red raspberry- flavored substance whose consistency was in between translucent Jell-O and a smooth pudding. I adored this treat called “Danish Dessert”. Whenever we had it, Mom spooned out six portions in small, fluted pedestal glass bowls. If it was my turn to bring the cherished dessert to the dinner table from the adjoining kitchen, I first eyeballed the display of gooey delicacies on the counter in hopes of finding the biggest portion. I spent additional minutes spinning the glassware around several times trying to get a better view of the volume in each container. If I had a scale, I probably would have weighed them to assure that I got the biggest one!
And then one evening came that sage message from my mother.
“You get what you get!” she announced loudly in frustration with my selfish antics and directed me to promptly bring the dessert to the table.
Looking back, I am sure that she made them as equal as possible knowing that her daughters were constantly in typical sibling rivalry. But as a young child, I was determined to be the winner of my secret dessert contest.
As I got older, I reflected upon her words and saw the simple wisdom of my mother’s admonishment. She probably did not mean to turn that particular moment into a life lesson and just wanted to get on with the meal. But for me, years later her words resonated and took on a deeper meaning.
“You get what you get!”
As we go through life, each one of us is offered many gifts. I am not talking about possessions and trinkets. Those are merely things that come and go. I am talking about people and experiences that come into our lives. We need to learn to graciously accept what we are given and to understand and appreciate the value. At the same time, we have to be careful not covet our neighbor’s windfall for appearances can be deceiving. What may come off as something valuable for another from afar, may in fact be worthless for us upon closer examination.
Finally, we need to sit back and let the grains of sand filter down through the hour glass while patiently acknowledging the passage of time and trusting the advent of moments of happiness.
I can honestly say that my experience as a widow was not an event that I ever anticipated or requested. At the time of my husband’s death, I was truly overcome by grief and my vision was distorted by its cloud and life did not seem to have much to offer. As the years have gone by, I have embraced my journey. By slowing down my gait on its path, I have allowed myself to seek out the hidden gifts. Increased compassion, empathy and a deeper understanding of my life’s plan were some of the rewards I discovered. I have learned to be more patient, grateful, and reflective. I cherish my new, strong voice that has allowed me to speak to others who are facing the challenge of a loss. I am fortunate to be able to put into words my feelings so that I can share them as a possible lifeline.
“You get what you get!”
We can’t change our life circumstances, but we can get better at mining the hidden jewels and learning to recognize their value. No one said it would be easy, but these assorted treasures can be the ambrosial desserts in life’s menu that leave us with a sense of sweet satisfaction and a fullness of gratitude deep inside.
I wish for all of you an abundant helping of loved ones and the wisdom to appreciate them for as long as they are with you.
A great Sunday morning message which I can reflect and ponder about through today and more.
I am glad you like it Ray.Thanks for your comment and your continued support!
My pleasure John.
Enjoyed your writing. I always do. Sharing the same closeness with three of my siblings and also sharing a bedroom with Trisha who is 14 months younger than I your story brought forth fond memories for me as well. I do remember your upstairs bedrooms going there for some reason once or twice, however we usually always met in the barn and played. The house did not seem so important then. Your home always reminded me of something out of “Better Homes and Gardens”, just lovely and always inviting. Now as I near my 60th birthday, cannot believe it sometimes, I find myself reflecting back to Ames and my childhood and how lucky I was to grow up in that little village. I have made a slower pace for myself at this time of my life, here in Santa Paula and am very happy. Life is indeed a journey and it is all about the ride, not the final destination! Thank you for sharing. I really enjoy your writing style and what you have to say. HappySummer! Carol
Thank you Carol Sue for your kind words and memories. Yes, we share a very special history of a very unique time and place. I walked down Shunk Road past your childhood home last week and the memories just flooded back. It seemed like yesterday and I could not stop smiling. I am glad that you are in a comfortable place and that you are happy. For me being 60 is a lovely stage in life and I wish the best for you!
“Practically from birth, I understood my parent’s rules and expectations.”
Wisdom indeed. A lot of what ails us could be solved if this were the rule today rather than the exception. Did this impair your self-esteem? Confine your creativity? Threaten your security? Deform your spine? Apparently not.
When did “you get what you get” become “You get what’s left over after we take what we want, because you owe us?”
Thank you for your insightful comment Burt.
As I am 60 years into my childhood, I am pleased that my upbringing, whether by design or happenstance, allowed me to own up to my disappointments and celebrate my accomplishments. Eventually we all need to figure this out and I was just given an early start.
Best to you!