Yesterday at the post office, I met a woman I interviewed years ago when she was the single, carefree skipper of a charter boat in Depoe Bay. At that time, Shelly only had to worry about her perfectly behaved German Shepherd. Last year, we met again at dog-training class, where she had a new Shepherd and I had my two giant lab/bully dogs.
Much has changed for both of us over the years–and not just dogs. My husband lives in a nursing home, and I’m alone with the dogs. Shelly is married and has two little boys. She has given up her fishing business to be a wife and mom. Alas, sometimes children can be as exasperating as puppies. When I entered the post office, Shelly and one of the boys were on the floor under the mail deposit box. The boy was having a tantrum while his brother leaned against the counter laughing, showing his tongue and two missing teeth.
“How are you?” I asked the beautiful blonde, freckled mom.
“I’ve had better moments,” she said, struggling to hold the wild-eyed child.
I nodded and went on to my P.O. Box to collect my junk mail. I could hear her saying some of the very things I might say to my dogs: Stop it, sit up, keep still, be quiet. But in the middle of a tantrum it doesn’t work any better with kids than it does with dogs–and I have the cuts and bruises to prove it.
Parenting is tough. I’m not equating dogs with children. Kids grow up, but both take a lot of energy when they’re young and early training is vital. I wonder if sometimes Shelly remembers those days out at sea on the Lady Luck and wishes she were still there. Maybe she does at times like the one in the Post Office, but I’m sure there are other times when she looks at her sons with love and pride and wouldn’t trade them for all the crab and salmon in the sea.
I attended a party the other night with people from church whom I don’t know very well. Somehow we split up into women around one table and men around the other. I soon found myself the alien in the group. Not only did I not have a husband to bring, but I don’t have children. All of these women seem to have grown children and grandchildren to talk about. It was a long evening. The division between the Mom Club and those of us without children never ends.