What Gives My Life Meaning?

“What are you going to be when you grow up?”

When I was a child this was a common question posed by adults and peers alike. I never had an answer for that question in those days.

In those days, most families consisted of a mother, a father, their children, and perhaps some aunts or grandparents. My models were all the parents of my friends. In my school classroom, there were only two of us who had no mother in the role of “full time homemaker” in the house when we came home from school.

As I got into the sixth grade I learned that some mothers had been trained and worked as nurses before they were married. There were teachers who had never been married, and when the young ones found a husband they gave up their profession to get married. I knew there were secretaries, and my friend Nancy’s mother was a widow, and therefore worked as a part time cook. She also was the cook all summer at the Girl Scout Camp, and Nancy would spend every summer at the camp while the rest of us only went for one or two weeks.

At that time I was satisfied to just be myself, who I was, with no care or thought for the future.

My mother told me many times, “Never be a secretary or a teacher.” Her rationale was that if you were a secretary you did all the work and the boss took all the credit and most of the money. As for being a teacher, she had graduated from Normal School at the Presbyterian Ministerial School in Wooster, Ohio, and got a job as a first grade teacher when she was 18. She hated it. She had to live with an approved family in the community, she was not allowed to go out in the evenings, had to spend Sundays in church, and live an exemplary model life. That was not her style.

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It is hard for me to “brag” about myself, so the rest of this memoir is a page Holly wrote out for me, based on words I told her about my life:

My mother and father divorced when I was three. Divorce was a serious stigma in those days.

My mother had to go find work to support us, then she started looking for a man who could be her new husband, and a stepfather for me. So until I was ten and “old enough to take care of myself after school,” I lived in boarding schools, boarding houses, and foster homes. But I never had any brothers or sisters of my own. My first husband Larry was also an only child. We both felt we had missed something, and decided we would have a big family with several children.

Having my own family and watching my four children learning and growing up together has been most meaningful to me. Later I was able to watch my grandchildren growing into mature adulthood; now I have two beautiful little great-grandchildren. I am blessed with family. They are my delight.

My mother decided it was important for me to attend Punahou, an excellent private college-prep high school, so on top of being manager of the apartment/hotel on Waikiki Beach where we lived, she also worked nights for the local newspaper to be able to pay my tuition. What I learned at Punahou significantly assisted me in my future relationships, education, and careers. I developed three important, life-long friends there, and later, was better able to contribute to the War effort and to help my husbands, Larry and Bob, be more successful.

During my travels around the world and while living in Hawaii and California, I have gotten to know people of many cultures, backgrounds, and religious beliefs. Who is my neighbor? Everyone I meet. I find myself being accepted when I am with groups of people of a different race.

When my youngest child was ready for preschool, I quickly and easily fell into my career in teaching. It felt like my teaching credential and many different jobs teaching were just handed to me. I have been blessed that my mother saw to it that I had top-notch educational preparation.

I loved teaching at all levels, from Head Start to University courses. To this day my prior students and their parents speak to me with affection and appreciation. One of the student teachers whom I mentored became Principal of a magnet school and guided it to earn top awards. She now is Instructional Director, Elementary school level, for Los Angeles Unified School District. She still honors me as haven given her the necessary attitude and skills.

I also delighted in teaching international dance to people of all ages. Not only did I plan, organize, teach and direct all of the students at Hobart Grade School to perform dance festivals for many years (three festivals each year), but after I retired, I was hired back by the Los Angeles Unified School District to train those skills to other teachers for the whole district. I have been blessed to find pleasure and fulfillment in my careers.

I could go on and on. What gives my life meaning? The joy of using everything I have been given, and sharing it with others.

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