Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here today with her thoughts on her own mom of the 50’s.
The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, is in bookstores now.
My house is a mess. Writers have a nasty habit of blocking out their environment when they’re writing. The same with reading. We attract paper, all of it important, notes scribbled on every scrap and post-it. If it can be written on, we do. Our friends are not invited over, we meet at neutral places like restaurants. Let someone else do the dishes.
I didn’t grow up like this. I was raised by a mother who was a product of her time. She devoted her life to cleaning the house, cooking great meals, taking care of her husband and seeing her daughters were immaculate when we left the house. She tried to instill these attributes into me. It obviously didn’t take.
To keep her house clean, we were kept out. We were ordered to “Go out and get some fresh air.” If it was raining, we played in the garage. You never went into other people’s homes and kids didn’t come play in yours. And you’d better be in shouting distance for dinnertime.
My mom was like all the other moms in the neighborhood. She didn’t work outside of the home. The only woman I knew that did was a teacher who was divorced. That in itself was unusual. Few women I knew drove because nobody had two cars. My mother didn’t get her license until she was in her late 50’s, and then only to drive to the bank three blocks away. I sometimes feel sorry for her that she had to beg for rides to go shopping and never felt the luxury of an afternoon shopping on her own.
I never went to kindergarten because my mother thought it was a Communist plot. She didn’t trust penicillin, so I was told I was allergic to it (I was 62 when I found out I wasn’t). She didn’t trust anyone to take care of her children so I never had a babysitter. But, she thought nothing of letting us ride the city bus to school or enrolling ourselves. And, because she didn’t drive, she never attended a teachers’ conference or open house.
Back then, nearly everyone’s parents smoked and drank gallons of coffee. I’m sure we all came to school reeking of tobacco. Second hand smoke wasn’t a worry. Neither was cancer. I remember my mother putting out a cigarette in a supermarket by dropping it on the floor and grounding her shoe on it. Hard to picture that today.
The 50’s mom always did her hair and makeup and dressed for the day in a duster or housedress (no pearIs like they show in old TV programs). I also remember something called “Come As You Are” parties. After the men went to work, one of the women would call everyone else and they had to leave the house in bathrobes and curlers to join the rest for coffee and pastries. I was dragged along and remember being shocked to see the neighbor ladies with curlers under headscarves, cold cream on their faces, bathrobes and slippers. All of her life my mother stayed at home dressed in a girdle and hose under her muu muus. I’m lucky if I make the effort to get out of my pajamas on a given day.
The house was always ready for anyone who dropped by. When my parents had company, they all sat in chairs, set coffee cups on coasters, were offered refreshments. In college, my friends sat on beanbag chairs or the floor, brought snacks to be shared and drank cheap wine. Bookcases were bricks and boards, the coffee table was a large wooden spool. Or, if you could steal them, milk crates. A mattress on the floor was fine for a bed—or a couch. Totally acceptable in the 70’s.
Female friendships were limited for my mother. Socializing was done by being a couple. A single woman was suspect, someone to guard your husband from. I have plenty of single women friends and my married friends are comfortable with my single status. They enjoy shedding their husbands to do things with girlfriends. I have friendships that go back to grade school, high school, college, the military, law enforcement and my writing life. These are women I value and who will be with me until death do us part.
My mother wanted my sister and I to have good marriages and give her grandchildren. Unfortunately, she raised strong, independent daughters who failed on both counts. We worked all our lives, bought our own houses and cars and didn’t look for a man for financial support. We were contented with cats (lots of cats!) and settled for a life of cat hair and shredded furniture.
My untidy lifestyle would have made me a pariah in the ‘50’s. Conformity wouldn’t have worked for me. Maybe I would still be a writer, but probably not a mystery writer because I wouldn’t have much experience outside the home. I never would have traveled all over the world on my own. I’m a product of my time, just as my mother was symbolic of hers. So, let the dust settle on every surface, the bed go unmade because the cats are comfy, meals cooked only when necessary. From what I can tell, there are many messy, busy women out there like me. And I can live with that.