When I was, hummmmmm, maybe around five or six both of my grandmothers started to be, well, a little different. The cause of their change in character was, of course, I realize now…the un-talked about ‘change of life’, or menopause.
My grandmother’s lived very different lives from my mother…surprisingly both my grandmothers worked most of their married lives. My mother didn’t really go to work ‘full-time’ for someone else (other than doing the books for Daddy’s business) until I was in high school.
My grandmothers had always worked…
Grandmother Thomas (mother’s mother) worked as a school teacher until she retired.
Grandmother Holder (my Dad’s mother) was still working at the Eckert Post Office as the Post Mistress until she retired several years later.
My mother had the dream world of 1950 June Clever, of the made for television Leave It to Beaver fame.
Back when I was growing up just going to the grocery store required a woman to ‘dress-up’, high heels, hose, nice dresses (no such thing as pants, Levis or slacks to go ‘shopping’) nice hair, lipstick and mascara and white gloves, hat, with sparkly earrings and necklaces, maybe even a broach on your jacket or coat.
Which also meant, as a child, we had to wear our ‘good clothes’ to town…complete with hat and white gloves.
At home women wore ‘house dresses’ and aprons in the kitchen. ALWAYS! When I ‘helped’ in the kitchen I also wore an apron.
The women I grew up with were outstanding housewives, they washed windows weekly, ironed everything on Tuesday (sheets, underwear, tea towels, you name it) after they washed all the clothes on Monday. Starched the dried clothes and then sat them all stiff as a board on the wash room counter ready for the iron on Tuesday.
Wednesday was thoroughly clean the house day; i.e. Wash windows, walls, cupboards, etc., Thursday was a little time of relaxation…cards with women friends, visiting or having others over for light refreshment, and shopping on Friday.
Back then my mother could and did smoke. It was very much the thing to do. Neither of my grandmothers smoked. It just wasn’t done in their times. Only those ‘fast women’ of the ‘30s smoked. But my mother and all her friends did smoke. Even expectant mother’s smoked, drank, and some were given pills so they wouldn’t gain weight in nine months.
Most mother’s never nursed their babies (it ruins the breasts) so they cheerfully gave their children formula, then rice cereal, everything purchased at the grocery.
My grandmothers helped with the new babies,
(in my family there was only myself and my brother) extending the family to include grandparents as a strong and given set of kinfolk.
Just as fashions, mothering is different now from myself and my children the approach to ‘the change’ is different as well. My grandmother’s never talked about menopause. Ever. We all just witnessed sudden and cataclysmic shifts in how our grandmothers approached every day and life in general.
Suddenly my grandmother Thomas would just sit staring into the gathering dusk like she really wasn’t present…or when helping my Grandmother Holder sit the table, before a meal, she would grab the silverware out of my hand, scream at me that I slow as a snail then slam the silverware in place by each plate.
Gradually, I grew older and so did my Mother. Menopause came for my mother. While visiting my parents (they had moved to Hayden, Colorado, by this time)…Momma (always a lady until the day she died) said she had to have a break…took her cigarettes (yes she smoked until the day she died) and me and we sat out on the back step while she puffed vigorously as the sweat poured off her face. “If anyone tells you menopause is easy”, she says very quietly…”smack them in the mouth”.
The Change is miserable and hard and uncomfortable and downright ugly. I’m sure there a many of you who have the exact moment in time when you knew ‘The Change’ was occurring in someone you love—or even yourself.
It isn’t something easily missed.
All those things those wonderful things Mother, grandmother, heck, even yourself used to enjoy doing suddenly become a chore, and endlessly round of caring and baking and cleaning….with miserable, wildly imbalanced hormones all part and particle of the process.
Today I am way past that time…today I can say…to each of you as you struggle to get control of yourself…it does get better. Even the hot flashes have a tendency to slow down, they don’t happen as much (you will still get them, but not as often) and joy for every day will occur…again. You will still be able to go on running your business, setting interest rates, performing surgery, or traveling here and abroad.
It just takes time, maybe a little hormone replacement therapy from your doctor, or over-the-counter aids such as black cohosh tea and St. John’s Wort. Just think of it as an odious bit of time in your life. Once through it you’ll look back and say.
“Whew! I’m glad THAT is over” Now you will do what you want…eat dessert for any meal if you want, where whatever clothes that make you feel good…grow you hair long or shave it off. It won’t matter anymore, because finally you have come into your own.
Well, this was a bit of a ramble. I got to thinking of all this because Celi of at The Kitchen Garden Project is writing (with the help of many women) a book called “Letter to My Sister” a book telling other women what it is like to go through ‘the change’ what to expect and what has happened to many others.
Many voices have now been collected and will soon be bound and printed. Then the collective knowledge of all women of all ages on Menopause will be available for purchase. Please check back often as I’m sure you or someone you love will enjoy this book of knowledge!