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Cortney Amber Greenslet

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Cortney Greenslet

ENG-1061

Marianne Shaughnessy

                                                That's Mom to you!

            With the phone nestled on my ear as my shoulder holds it in place, my left arm is wrapped around my daughter who would like to know “why?” is the sauce hot, and “Why?” can't she do it herself., My right arm is stirring, stirring, stirring, the spaghetti sauce. The spoon in that hand doubles as a threatening device to get my kittens off of the table, and my feet are dancing here and there trying to avoid falling on the newly designed triple-decker rail system that Thomas the Tank Engine's newest engineer (my son Marley) has just designed for him. My husband is calling out to me from our home office about what the zip code for Springfield is as I calmly tell my mother that my brother will eventually care about his homework - eventually.

            All of these things that I do everyday, in story form, may give the typical bachelor reason enough to run wildly into the woods of Vermont never to be heard from again. Yet for every moment of time that I do not have to spend, I can look at my life and know that I am truly experiencing every moment of it. To the “normal” person, they may not realize the pride I am feeling at the moment that my spaghetti sauce bubbles because I know then that I have learned to make something new, and that the sauce will comfort the bellies of my family and all who happen to arrive for dinner that night. I know that my house smells like a house of love, with garlic and tomatoes, and steam rising from the stove. I  know that someone would describe that moment  in a magazine might say something like...“And the delicious scent of homecooked spaghetti sauce, cooking for days on the stove, wafted through her busy kitchen as the sound of family life echoed in the background. It reminded me of when I was a child in my grandmother's kitchen.” Yes, that would be what they would say, unless of course they stayed a little longer and saw that the world would officially end a second later when I put Lauren down and she played Godzilla with the second layer of Thomas' triple decker rail system! Oh, the way Marley would scream!

            You see, it is not really what I do or do not do everyday that defines my role as a mom. It is what I experience everyday, it is the very best and worst of times that really are worth analyzing. It is learning to be patient when your son is crying because his emotions are intense at the age of four. It is learning to crouch down for a moment to listen to your one and a half year old describe, in a whisper, that her baby is sleeping and that we all should “Shhhhhhhhhh!”

            As a mom, I am forever re-learning everything I thought I knew. I have learned patience. I learned to be patient, not because a book told me so, but because if you are not willing to wait for your child to finish what he is saying, he will never wait to hear the end of your sentence either. I want my children to be good listeners.

            Being a mom, most of the days, leaves me frazzled, stained with some type of mucky stuff on my new white shirt, tired in the colapsable sort of way, and of course, questioning my own adulthood. I wonder sometimes if other people do things that are strange to get their children to use the toilet: walking like a duck, putting cheerios for target practice, and of course singing the “potty song.” I wonder sometimes if other parents find themselves at the door of an empty play group when really they were supposed to be at the doctor's office? I also wonder if other parents feel as out of time each day when they get into bed. Unsure of what things did not get done that day, but sure that they would still be there still waiting to be done the next morning. These things surely must run into other parent's roles as a spouse as well. I have a spouse?

            Sometimes my role as a mom develops into different types of career fields. At times I am a developmental psychologist, assessing the level of ability it takes to be able to climb all the way up to the top of the bookcase. On other days I am more of an educational advocate, photographer, meteorologist, entomologist, and of course there is always the role of the pony in our “hallway express!”

            Although I have many roles that I play, the role of mom is the most diverse, challenging, rewarding, and complex. I am often putting my children's needs first instead of taking time for myself. I am often not there for parties, art exhibits, the movie theatre, and adult-time, but I have chosen this life and wouldn't give it up for anything in the world. I wonder if I can put all of those roles down for experience on my resume?

           

 

Cortney Greenslet

Eng-1061

October 3, 2005.

 

             

            I remember lifting my feet up and over the railing of my crib. I could not have been more than two. As my toes tucked themselves into the side of the mattress for support, the old springs would creak with an ancient sort of squeak. I reach my toes a little further down with my arms stretched up beyond my head, holding on until I feel the comfort of the floor. The crinkle of my diaper is quiet yet distinct – past the hallway nightlight, and into my parents’ room. For a moment I stand there with my nose and cheeks against her crib. My hands wrapped around the bars. I lift my foot and wedge it in between the rail and the mattress, with a squeaaakkkkkk! I pull myself up and over and plop down inside her crib. I lay down next to her, feeling her newborn warmth. In the softness of her newly washed sheets, the smell of baby and the feeling of my little sister, I sleep.

            Morgan and I have grown to need each other in different ways over the years. My mother really has never trusted men, and my father is a bit of a drama queen. My youngest sister was always stealing things out of my room, and eventually, a second husband, half brother and just plain life come into our family tree. Through each chapter of our lives, we have turned to each other to help figure life out. Because of our strong, supportive, and realistic relationship, we have both grown tremendously from it.

 There is so much of my life that I do not remember. I am still young, yet there are many pieces which I have discarded in some way, or pushed into the background to a place where I cannot see them when I look back. Sometimes I wonder if I was so busy protecting my sisters from pain or life, taking it all within myself, if I failed to truly experience the living part.

The best thing about talking with Morgan now, is the way she remembers things. It is almost as if she was there, in every instance of my life, taking notes. Whenever there is a family discussion of how a particular event unfolded, her story almost always wins. She is so particular about details, so thoughtful about how you looked, like that day throwing rice in the yard. She’s like a living photo album, painting picture after picture about that day until you can actually smell the wind that was blowing. She tells me that we wore long adult-size t-shirts, that hung down past our knees, that we danced flinging steamed rice all around. She remembers how high particular swings seemed from the ground, or that she found a snail in the umbrella tree while climbing on Cozycroft Circle. These details, although seemingly small, are so big to me. It is comforting to think that maybe my efforts to protect her gave her strength and freedom enough to take in each moment in her life. In return for this protection, I receive stories with characters and settings like a story I read a long, long time ago. Each time she tells me, those small details painting a picture, I remember something more- something familiar and comforting.

In four weeks she will be married. As her maid-of-honor it is once again my duty to protect her – to stand up for her. To keep her from the bombardment of questions that will be sent her way. I will protect her from mud on her beautiful dress or too much hairspray in her hair.  Up until now, it has been for me to protect her and to gently hold onto her fears and deepest thoughts, as if they are my own. Her wedding day is emotional for me because I am so proud of her in many ways as a woman. She is deserving of the very best happiness and the very deepest love, and I think she has found that with Travis. They will challenge each other with their own thoughts on every subject, and he will commit to protect her, and hold for her, her fears and deepest thoughts for safe keeping. I know that everyone still needs a sister, even after they are married. I know that although she is building a life of her own, our friendship will change, and yet I do not see it as if I am losing her. I see my life being enhanced with even more family and friendships to hold and to love.  On this day, I want to run around yelling “Woo Hoo! She did it!” and by this I would mean she grew up to be someone special. Morgan grew up to be someone who did something with their life…she lived it with every ounce of her spirit.

 

 

Cortney Greenslet

ENG-1061

September, 13, 2005.

 

            There comes a time in children's lives when they finally become separate people from their parents, no longer attached by an umbilical cord, no longer the same, only themselves. For me, that was actually quite recently, only it came in the form of symbolism and resulted in the freedom of my spirit.

            There has not been a time in my life that I cannot remember working in my Dad’s restaurant. He has had many, the first where I used to sit on the dessert counter, dip chocolate covered strawberries with the pastry chef, and eat ice out of the ice machine with my sisters. Another restaurant in LA later on was a fancier and more prestigious with it's folded napkins, Chanel perfume and white tablecloths. We became even more involved when my sister and I participated in the children’s pajama fashion show there. My sister got to where the outfit that I wanted, but we got to keep the nightclothes after, so it was still fun, even for a six-year-old.

            In 1988, it was the large Inn in Wilmington; the diner in West Dover with the huge jar of Bazooka bubble gum, complete with comic and fortune, and the one with the chef who made us the chocolate eggs larger than our heads at Easter time. My father followed my mother back out West and owned one of my favorites “The Messina Café,” a small place on vine street, complete with hostess and busgirl daughter.

            The smell of olive tapenade and bread, wine and pasta, bring me back to a time when  I began to breathe, think, move restaurant. After a while, you begin to feel the movement of a restaurant in your veins. Like a glass of Cabernet, it slowly makes you move differently then you used to. At some point in the restaurant business, I became my father's prodigy. Every part came so easily to me, it was like riding a bike, something that happens without consciously planning it. The people were easier to greet and smile at, the magic of a well set table was developing each time I started with my blank linen canvas, waiting to be filled with things people would soon be grateful they had - a large spoon to twirl their linguine, a shaker of parmesan, oil lamps to see or swoon by. Nothing was dull or slow. Everything was quick, making your heart beat and your mind sweat. 

            Although there have been many other restaurants in between like lovers to heal a broken heart, my father has finally landed in Chester, with his own restaurant. He lives above it and hardly ever leaves it. It is his new “only child” and my in many ways my third. I was there when they began the construction, and soon after, as the manager. Guiding it as a captain guides his ship, keeping a firm grip, yet never pulling too hard to curb it's creative flair. This restaurant, this third child of mine was not quite as old as my son, but not as young as my daughter. I remember being six months pregnant and coming in the morning to open the restaurant, not sure if I was able to stomach the bouquet of rich food from the night before. Some mornings I would lay there with my head on the desk, not sure if I could roll another pizza dough, cook another Putanesca, arrange another silverware roll. Soon after, I stopped working there. Not because I was pregnant – but because I was tired. This tiredness was not so much from carrying a baby, it was more so a part of my heart hollering to leave. Restaurant life, although exhilirating at times, is also tiring. If you longer can hear the beat of the chefs and the tinkle of the silverware, than it is time to move on.  My heart was hollering to make sure I heard it when it said – “This is not yours, this is not the one. Go! Find it! Love it! Live it!” I realized that although I was born into this business, and it bled from soul, it was not my passion. It was not the reason that I wanted to wake up in the morning for.

            “I was born into the restaurant business, and I love it and am great at it, but it is not what I want to do for my life’s work.” This is what I tell people and myself. When my father decide to franchise his restaurant, he also decided to ask me to be his vice president. I winced for a moment, knowing the fun I could have. I know the promise of fast paced, dramatic finishes, and of beneficial rewards. And yet, somewhere I know that it is the right decision for me to write, work with children, and create something of my own. The creation and the management of a restaurant is an art, a labor of love. By refraining from this life, I can not only value the idea of being home in the evening for my family, but also I can live it. I can be at home in the evening  for bedtime, so that I can be splashed by bubbly bath water, and so my better half can share his day with me. Each moment is history in the making, times which will one day be looked back upon as the “good ole days.” None to be wasted.

            As a mother of two now, I recognize the importance of heritage, culture, and roots. I recognize the idea of knowing where you came from, as something much more than being able to talk about it. Its importance is not in the reporting of it, but the idea which runs through your soul, like garlic bleeds from you after you have eaten it fresh. Where you come from is an odor of depth, of existence, of honor. Each moment I have, I take every opportunity that presents itself to show my children what came before them. I am proud to have them elbow deep in flour experiencing firsthand the fundamental idea of where things are made, and the hard work which contributes to this. If I can give them the importance of family, hard work, and show them the hope and excitement your own business can instill in you, then I will have begun to show them what my father has taught me. Happy Birthday Dad.

 


"Education is a companion which no future can depress, no crime can destroy, no enemy can alienate it and no nepotism can enslave."
-Ropo Oguntimehin