By Glenda Council Beall
The woman bore and taught the children,
did the laundry, cooked the meals,
mothered seven, prayed some,
and shed her share of tears.
The man was strong, but needed her
to bolster up his mettle. Worked two jobs,
the early days, until he was successful.
Built his company which kept him happy
almost forty years.
The woman had a secret dream,
to work, to earn,
have a career,
but marriage came, then kids.
Finally her chance arrived.
He needed help. He called her in.
Beside him, daily, she gave all
she had inside, and joyed in doing it.
One day, he quit. Closed
the doors, went fishing.
And she went home to an empty house
too lonely, too clean, to nothing.
Hello fellow travelers! I want to introduce you to Glenda Council Beall, a writer and poet residing in Hayesville, North Carolina.
JEG: Glenda this is a lovely poem. It says volumes about what has been expected of women and what
I think that this poem describes more of women of yesteryear, when these were traditional women’s roles. Am I right about this?
GB: Yes, Joan. I actually based this on my mother’s life, although neither she nor my father ever worked in an office. He and his four sons were in business together. My mother kept the books for the farming operation. She loved it and felt such a part of the business. But the day my father decided to retire, she was out of a job as well. No one asked if she wanted to continue to work for the family business. She was retired right along with him.
JEG: Is this poem about someone you know?
GB: The poem is not a true story of my mother, but of many women who stood behind their husbands, supported them in all they did, and never had the choice of having a career outside the home.
JEG:This woman worked hard all of her life, yet was happy to become a care-taker for her husband at the end of his life. Did I interpret this correctly?
GB: Women of that generation took care of everyone in the family. The woman was the nurturer and the man was the bread winner. Their roles were distinctly different. Women seldom had a choice once the children came along. They stayed home and cared for the kids, the house and made sure the man had a comfortable home to come back to every night. She didn’t want him to get sick or die. What would she do if she lost him, the bread winner? This was long before women began pushing for equal rights in the work place and respect for what they could do.
JEG: I think this speaks to what a woman is capable of and how strong we are. Would you agree with this sentiment?
GB: Women have had to be strong and resilient to hold the family together. My mother was the glue that held all seven children and my father tightly interwoven as one unit. My older sister, whose husband died when she was only 48 years old, had to leave that nurturing mother role and go back to work to support herself and her two teenage daughters. She had not worked outside the home in sixteen years. She had no choice, and she did a fantastic job raising her girls alone. But the traditional role of women and men has changed. Today most women work, keep house, and take care of everyone, but most young men now help with household chores, I think.
JEG: I can’t help but think that there is a parallel here, with your life. Do you relate to the “too lonely, too clean, to nothing?
GB: In the poem, the woman, who could be any woman, found herself with no real purpose. Her children were grown. She couldn’t go back to her old role of being a mother and a housewife. How many times do you need to clean a house that doesn’t get dirty? Her husband was happy with his retirement, no responsibilities, and no pressures. He could go fishing, watch sports on TV, garden or read. He had a choice whether to work or stop.
What happened to her after he closed his business was of no concern to him. When he quit, she was set adrift. We don’t know if she found anything else to make her feel useful or if she became a caregiver for her husband. I left the poem open for the reader to see how women were so dependent on men at one time. Hopefully, today women get good educations and find fulfilling jobs. They don’t have to be totally dependent on a man.
JEG: Yes, Glenda, that is certainly true!
GB: I can relate to this situation. When my husband Barry passed away, I couldn’t imagine living the rest of my life with no purpose. I have worked since I was old enough to go to a job. In high school, I worked in the summers and on Saturdays. After I graduated from college, I taught school, public and private, for fifteen years. During the ten years I cared for my mother, I learned to use the computer and worked part time jobs. I also worked in our family business for a while in the seventies and eighties. I was never a mother, but I took care of the house, our large yard, and spoiled my husband who loved attention. I had purpose in my life, and I enjoyed my life, but after my parents died, and I lost Barry in 2009, I knew it was time for me to get into the driver’s seat and make decisions about where I was going. Most of my life I had gone where I was needed or where others took me.
Like the woman in the poem, I felt lost and alone and adrift for about six months, until I opened my writing studio in my home. I love being my own boss and making my own plans.
The majority of fees paid for Writing Circle classes go to the instructors. I only take enough to “keep the lights on”. There is cost in having the studio at my home – cleaning, electricity, yard maintenance, and upkeep on the place.
I also spend many hours scheduling workshops, at least one each month, and then getting the word out about them from spring until fall. Those hours I donate to the writers in the area who come and take advantage of the excellent instructors we bring in. My purpose and my mission are stated on my Writers Circle around the Table blog. www.glendacouncilbeall.blogspot.com
I also find purpose in working for North Carolina Writers Network-West, known as Netwes
t. This wonderful writing community changed my life twenty years ago when I moved here. I will be forever grateful.
Glenda’s poems have appeared in numerous journals including Wild Goose Poetry Review, Applachian Heritage, Main Street Rag, Journal of Kentucky Studies, Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Red Owl Magazine and in the anthologies, Kakalak – Anthology of Carolina Poets, 2009, 2011 Poetry Hickory, FutureCycle, Lights in the Mountains, Women’s Places Women’s Spaces, On Our Own, Widowhood for Smarties, From Freckles to Wrinkles, and Reach of Song published by the Georgia Poetry Society. Her poetry chapbook, Now Might as Well be Then, published by Finishing Line Press, is available at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, NC, and online from Amazon.
©All creative works by Joan Ellen Gage are her exclusive property, and Joan maintains the legal rights to them.