• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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You Don’t Know What You Got Til’ It’s Gone

I’m the middle of three girls. My two sisters have blonde hair and blue eyes. I don’t. They used to call me Jan Brady after the Brady Bunch episode where Jan gets a brunette wig to differentiate herself from Marcia and Cindy. I think the psychological term is “individuate.”

Anyway, I always felt like the son in the family as growing up I was closest to my dad. He owned a lumber yard and he very much wanted me to work with him. But Dad, I cried, I don’t care about lumber. It’s not about lumber, he used to say, it’s about people. But Dad, I cried, I don’t care about people, I care about books. When I eventually made it into publishing, my father was extremely proud and would show anyone who came to our house where my name was listed in the acknowledgments of a book. It was mortifying, of course, and I believe it explains in part why people stopped coming to our house.

My dad eventually sold his business. There’s a CVS where the yard used to be.

What were you supposed to be when/if you grew up?

37 Responses

  1. A writer—from the time I was six. A rock star, too, but I’m still working on that.

    The only two times I strayed from the plan was when I wanted to be Rhoda Morgenstern and do window dressings and when I wanted to be an auto mechanic so I could wear jeans to work every day.

  2. Still not sure about the growing up thing. Work in progress? The funny thing is, even as a kid I wrote stories and always kept a diary, but it never really occurred to me that I could actually BE a writer. Not as a profession, at least.

    Your story was especially poignant for me. The job I was laid off from in December was with a small regional trade association of family owned lumberyards. Over the year and a half I worked for them, I saw a number of those 3rd and 4th generation businesses going under. It was very sad and hard for those families that had been community sponsors and employers and who had sawdust in their blood.

  3. My parents didn’t expect much. My father never said what he thought I should be. My mother did, though. Her only aim for me was that I should grow up not pregnant. She never told me the facts of life, just that we’d have to move if I got knocked up. I didn’t want to leave my friends, so she got her wish. I ended up being a teacher, and after thirty-three years of teaching kids to read and not kill each other, I retired and became a writer. My first book was published when I was sixty. And I did get pregnant a couple of times, but we stayed put!

  4. A guidance counselor, because not everyone is cut out to be a rabbi.

    • The first thing I wanted to be was a rabbi, but I quickly changed my mind to actor. (It’s all an act anyway.) But my Dad wanted me to go into his business too, electrical wholesale. I made deliveries for a few summers in high school and realized it wasn’t for me. Actor turned into psychic and psychic turned into writer. I’m really a rabbi at heart.

  5. Lawyer. Broadcast journalist. Film maker. Editor. My father re-realized my calling several times. He’s…still doing it.

  6. Detention was in the library where I was sent quite a bit from Junior high on. Paintings on the wall, books on the shelves, people speaking softy. i wanted to be all three–artist, writer, librarian. Make that angry artist, writer, librarian. And I am.

  7. What were you supposed to be when/if you grew up?

    I’m not sure I was/am supposed to be anything—but my parents started their consulting business when I was in elementary school, and now both work with them and write a blog about grant writing with my Dad. As I say in the “about” page:

    His son, Jake, is fond of telling potential clients that while some people grow up with parents who own Italian restaurants and thus inherit recipes for marina sauce, and others have parents who are developers and thus know their cities’ zoning laws intimately, he was raised by a clan of grant writers who were eager for the next round of YouthBuild or SAMHSA grants to be released. As a result, his knowledge of grant writing is broader and deeper than anyone else his age. He also operates Seliger Editing & Writing and writes the literary blog The Story’s Story.

    So if I grew up around writing/editing and was/am supposed to be in the business, then I guess I’ve fulfilled that destiny.

  8. A boy.

    Oh, wait. You meant when I grew up, not when I was born?

    A wife. But stubborn me wanted more than that, and here I am, 40 years old, writing away. Also, I’m a wife. And a mom. Got the ole MRS degree at the ripe old age of 27 and fulfilled all their hopes and dreams.

  9. I was supposed to get a business degree and work on my hobby in my spare time. So said my dad, who’s been working at the same place of business for more than 40 years and has been miserable pretty much the entire time. I got my degree in English and work in publishing and am happy for the most part. Sometimes Father does not know best.

  10. I’m the youngest of three girls. My oldest and middle sisters fit Marcia and Jan Brady to the tee. But I’m tho not Thindy.

    A psychic convinced my mother I was destined to be an artist. I did have some ability, so that seemed plausible until the writing bug took hold at about age 9.

    My dad never much cared what we became as long as it wasn’t musician or actress, because they’re all junkies. He was OK with writer. My oldest sister was golden though–she became an attorney. Always good to have one of those in a family like ours.

  11. “You gave up all the golden factories
    To see
    Who in the world you might be….”

    – Joni Mitchell

  12. My mother wanted me to be a CIA agent.

    My father didn’t give a shit, but later he always told everyone I worked in the entertainment industry, never pointing out that the majority of my job description consisted of tasks like: pick up weed from Lamborghini Lisa, bring highlighted copy of Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs to the set, make 42 appointments that won’t be kept with Drs. Glassman, Klein, Lancer, et al.

    Living the dream.

  13. My mother wanted me to be a genius, and let me know. Her brother had been a genius and gone to college at 12. Unfortunately I didn’t know that this was not a destiny I could will myself into. My early passion for books and music were soon pressed into the service of “finding the young genius within the struggling artist” syndrome; and still resonates today.

  14. The guidance counsellor at school gave me a test that said I should be a Nun or a Police Officer. Since I’m an atheist who fears guns, I’m kinda at a loss.

  15. I was meant to be a ‘poetess’ – my title in the family album – but I’m lousy at writing poetry and always have been, though I didn’t think so when I was little.

  16. I wanted to be a vet, instead, I’ve become an aspiring writer. : )

  17. Just someone with nice manners.

  18. I wanted to be an archeologist. I loved reading about Pompeii etc.in National Geographic. But those old obsessions come in handy–I work them into whatever I’m writing (a Pompeii scholar is a character in my WIP).

    I also wanted to be a vet.

  19. According to my eighth-grade social studies teacher, I was supposed to be a lawyer. According to my Dad, I was supposed to be a wife. So I chose advertising. And that was fun — for a while – and then later, it was just too much.

    Now after 10 years at home, my kids are off to school and we are broke. I’m supposed to be back to work – but doing what? I have no idea. Could someone please tell me, what am I supposed to do now?

  20. Growing up I wanted to be a lawyer, but somewhere between studying for and actually taking the LSAT’s, I realized I would rather be the person writing about the lawyer writing the briefs than be the lawyer writing the briefs. Hence my degrees in English and journalism. That decision, however, caused four years of listening to my mom ask what I was going to do with an English degree…

  21. My father worked in engineering with a correspondence school education and wore his lack of a college degree like a hair shirt. From grade school on, both my brother and I were told that we would have college degress — no questions asked.

    In junior high Occupations class I did my project on Chemical Engineering. It took The University of Texas four and a half years to completely convince me that I was not a chemical engineer, even though they gave me the degree.

    I went into sales and at a very early age I was selling custom built construction equipment all over the world, but I always wanted a restaurant.

    I quit and started a restaurant and was one of the few “restabees” who didn’t lose my ass, my wife, and two years of my life. Some years later I was asked by the local Hearst newspaper to freelance a weekly wine column. That’s when I learned what I wanted to do.

  22. I am 74 and still don’t know. Suggestions?

  23. I wanted to be a music teacher, because I was told endlessly that the things I loved to do – writing, and music performance – were things I could always do “on the side.” My mother, who is a high school English teacher, wanted me to be something “impressive” (her word, not mine). I chose going to law school over getting a Ph.D in medieval studies on the basis that law would be an easier career path. I’m 31. I was laid off from a law firm two years ago and have been temping ever since. So much for career stability. I’m in therapy trying to learn to give myself permission to do what I really want to do with my life, which, it turns out, is write. So. Silver lining, and all that.

  24. Growing up I never knew what I was supposed to be. I was only told I had to work hard.

  25. Writer, movie star or president of the United States. I chose the first because you know, I wanted a real challenge.

  26. A writer from the time I could read and write, scarily early. Short stories, journals, poems, entries for Cricket magazine prizes.

    But my mother thought I should become an English professor, like her. (She? Her? She? Her?)

    She was forever “working on her writing,” but never ever called herself a writer.

    Meanwhile, as a young girl I had this idea that I was supposed to grow up to become the well-put-together wife of a rich, conservative Jewish man, and have lots of children, and wear tan knit ensembles to temple, like my great-Grandmother had, or many of my mother’s friends with whom she had a Consciousness Raising Group in the 70’s. I hated and coveted my own idea. I wanted to find rich Jewish boys sexy but kept gravitating towards bad-boy jocks and later, Puerto Rican and African American guys who didn’t think I was fat.

    But I never stopped writing. High school literary magazine, local paper, undergrad creative writing program.

    My senior year of college, I won a prestigious literary prize that my college only gave out when a suitable candidate showed up. I called my mother to tell her I’d won.

    “Oh!” she replied, as though utterly surprised. “I didn’t know you wrote.”

    When I renewed my passport after college, and stared at the line where you write in “occupation,” I was a nervous wreck. I happened to be sitting next to my writing partner at the time, with whom I wrote my first screenplay. “Is it okay if I write ‘writer’ for my occupation?” I asked him. He was ten or fifteen years my senior and just stared at me.

    “Did you just ask me permission?” he asked, incredulous.

  27. My parents met while working at a bank. (Dad in programming way back when that was really new, and Mom doing filing in the mortgage department.) My sister’s first real, full-time job? Bank teller. I swore I would never work in a bank. And then I started college and needed a summer job and, hmm, the hours are awfully good…

    Oh, and then there’s my day job. 19 years ago, Dad asked if I could help out at the office because they were short-handed, but that it could just be temporary. He’s long-since retired and even though I told myself I would never work for him … yep, I’m still there. Writing on the side, of course, but, still!

    This is what I get for making broad, “I’ll never” statements to myself.

  28. For a while there I was supposed to be both Miss America and the first woman President. Both of those things haven’t quite worked out for me but I do appreciate my parents’ confidence in my grade school prowess and piano skills.

  29. My father wanted me to be an electrical engineer, just like him. Never mind I flunked out of both math and science in high school.

    My husband briefly dabbled with the major at university, but otherwise not so much my thing.

    I think my mother knew where I’d end up, she just didn’t predict it for me. After babysitting from 9-18, an early childhood career makes sense. If not as much money as say, engineering.

  30. Archaeologist. If only because when I was a kid, while waiting for the school bus, Discovery Channel would always be showing this archaeology show. If I changed the channel to Nat Geo, it’d be about paleontology. I figured dirt was in my future.

    I’m in school for a Creative Writing degree. Huh.

  31. I don’t remember ever having a conversation with my father or my step-father about this. Or my mother. When I was in college studying my fucking brains out to get into medical school, I would have periodic conversations about this topic with my mother while home on holiday or summer breaks. Each time I’d remind her what I was studying, what my plans were. Then she’d tell me she always thought I was going to be a preacher. I’d stare back at her wondering just how dumb she really was or if she was fucking with me on purpose.

  32. Growing up? Still working on it and totally bucking the hopes and expectations of the parents.

    At one point in time, I believe my father hoped (and pushed hard) for me to remain in some scientific field — I was a biochem major who switched to English. When it looked like that wasn’t going to happen, he started pushing law (I was heading for journalism). THEN I decided I wanted to pursue a job as a teacher and he started singing the praises of journalism. Funny when you reach new levels of “jobs I never want to see my kid perform” — the previous levels start to look completely acceptable to your parents. Maybe I should pick something REALLY “appalling” and pretend to apply for such a position (no idea what that would be) so the old man will openly accept my current choice of profession rather than avoiding the subject. Taboos hurt!

  33. I was supposed to illustrate the outsides of books, not write the insides. In a roundabout way I went to art college, quit, went to teachers college, worked in a camera store, learned how to typeset, started making ads for the camera store, then worked for a newspaper as a graphic artist.

    I wrote stories in high school, but didn’t seriously pursue it until four years ago when my husband gave me a refurbished laptop.

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