By the first day of Kindergarten I had already made up my mind what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to be a nurse. My mother was a nurse, although I'm not sure if that had much to do with my decision. She tried to discourage me, actually. In her day, young women considering a "career" had essentially four choices: secretary, teacher, stewardess, or nurse. By 1968, new career possibilities were emerging for women. Perhaps she wanted me to consider avenues that had not been open to her a mere decade earlier. Whenever I mentioned my desire to be a nurse she would sigh, shake her head, and say something to the effect that it was a tough job and that I should do something "better." Five-year-olds can be quite stubborn, however. No one was going to talk me out of it; I wanted to be a nurse.
The winter of 1968 just happened to have been particularly cold and we children had been enjoying skating on a small man-made pond in one of Brooklyn's neighborhood parks. I had asked Santa for ice skates that Christmas and was thrilled to find them under the tree. I remember them so clearly. . . the smell of new leather, the flash of the shiny blades, and the jingle of the tiny bells on the pair of pink and white pom-poms. My younger sister received a pair of skates, too. Hers had blue and white pom-poms and I recall her being quite annoyed that I had been given the pink ones! (Ah, the funny little things we remember from childhood!)
Needless to say, we pestered my poor father to take us to the park every weekend so we could skate with him. I wonder how many football games he missed because my mother, hands full with a new baby and three more children under the age of six, insisted that he get us out of the little apartment "to get some fresh air!" Whatever the reason for her encouragement, I was happy for every opportunity to tie on those skates and wobble my way across the frozen pond.
That year the Winter Olympics were held in Grenoble, France. I recall huddling with my family around our black and white set with the rabbit-ear antennae wrapped in aluminum foil and being mesmerized by the grace and beauty of women's figure skating. It was that event that gave the United States it's one and only Olympic Gold medal that year. The entire country fell in love with figure skating! Suddenly, I wanted to be something different when I grew up.
I wanted to be Peggy Fleming.
Oh, the costumes! The music! The elegance! What more could a little girl want in a career? I began talking in earnest about wanting to be a professional figure skater and told my mother that for my birthday, I planned on asking for skating lessons. To my surprise, she began talking about what a wonderful career nursing would be after all! There was no way my parents could invest that kind of time and money on professional skating lessons and my mother was busy with babies. . . it was just out of the question, and she told me so. I was heartbroken, naturally. How is a little kid supposed to know that it costs a fortune to become a competitive skater? My mother tried to comfort me by telling me that I didn't have to give up skating. I could still do it for fun, just not as a career. "Be a nurse that ice skates!" she said, and after I had time to get over my initial childish disappointment, I accepted it. I would work as a nurse and play on the ice.
Well, the years went by and I skated only on occasion. We moved from the city to the Jersey Shore where the lakes and ponds rarely froze. In high school I chose classes that I would need to enter a collegiate nursing program: advanced biology, advanced chemistry, and physics. I did well in those classes, but it was in the language arts that I really excelled. I had an innate love of literature and writing came naturally to me. It was those science and math classes that required real work and I often put off writing my essays and term papers to the last minute because I was spending so much time on my other subjects.
When I was a senior I was accepted, along with my two best friends, into an advanced placement English class. We had a hand-written essay due every week for this class and my friends, not burdened as I was with advanced science classes, would spend hours composing their essays and grooming them to perfection. The day it was due I would dash mine off before school and at lunch period, usually finishing off the last few sentences as the teacher was collecting the papers! When we received our grades, my essays always scored equally or higher than the ones they had spent the entire week writing. It drove them crazy! I had no explanation for it. . . I just enjoyed writing. I wrote for fun: journals, poems, and silly little stories. But that was just playing around, not something I would consider as a career.
My advanced placement English teacher thought otherwise; she sat me down one day and asked me if I had considered becoming a writer. "Oh no, Sister," I replied, "I'm going into nursing." Like my mother had so many years earlier, my teacher tsk-tsk'd my choice of career and tried to talk me out of it. But a 17 year-old can be as stubborn as a 5 year-old and I insisted that I wanted to be a nurse. And I did, truly.
I went to college where my writing ability served me well and I graduated with honors. For twenty-five years I've enjoyed working as a nurse; I can honestly say that I've never regretted my choice of career. I've done so many different types of nursing in so many varied settings and in recent years, being a nurse has allowed me to flex my schedule around my husband's so that one of us is always home with the kids.
But now those kids are getting older, as am I. It's true that Billy requires more attention and supervision than a typical 11 year-old because of his special needs, but now that they are both in school I find that I can eke out a bit more time for myself when I'm not working. Slowly but surely, the urge to write has taken hold, not unlike the quirky compulsions that rule my son's autistic behavior. . . I feel the need to write.
Walt Disney World has been a tremendous inspiration for me. "Write what you know!" "Write what you love!" is what aspiring authors have been advised for generations. Well, I certainly love my family and I have definitely fallen in love with the magic of Walt Disney World, so it's easy for me to write about our family vacations to the World. Writing trip reports on Disney message boards has been a fantastic outlet for my need to write and a fun way to communicate with others who love to visit the World, especially those who are parents to children on the autistic spectrum. I really enjoy connecting with parents who truly understand my daily struggles with the difficult and often baffling features of ASD. They also understand my Disney addiction; they have it, too! Sharing stories about our families' vacations. . . the highs and the lows. . . has been a joy.
These stories are meant to be shared and I feel that they need to be told. Perhaps someone should write a book like the one I was searching for in the bookstore: "Travelers' Tales" meets "A Cup of Comfort." Perhaps that someone should be me.
Turns out I'm not a nurse that ice skates. I'm a nurse that writes.
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