A Chattanoogan Back Home - “Geronimo!”

Monday, January 23, 2012
Jen Jeffrey
Jen Jeffrey

We have all heard the saying, “Be careful what you wish for…” and I have to remind myself that I am exactly where I want to be. Mama used to tell me a story of a little hen that found a kernel of grain and she asked if the other hens would join her in sewing the seed. They were all too busy, so the hen did it all by herself. She worked very hard. She wished that she had help but she knew that what she put into it would be worth it later. At harvest time, she asked if the other hens wanted to help her gather the wheat, and again… all of them were too busy to help.

When the hen made bread, the aroma filled the air and the other hens came running. The hen that did all the work sewing the seed, harvesting the wheat and baking the bread told them emphatically, “Back off, I worked for this - you didn’t contribute at all,” (or something like that).

Maybe, now that I am interviewing farmers for the Growing Local series, I think about things in a farmer’s perspective. I have to remind myself that I found the grain, I sewed the seed and ….buddy… it takes work! I am not even close to harvesting, but I know that will come one day. Right now, I asked to be on my own. Mama told me that I could stay with her as long as I needed to. My best friend, Susan, said the same thing and I chose to leave the attic room that I rented in New York.

I knew it was time to plant the seed. I knew that if I got comfortable at my best friend’s house or any others who let me share their home that it would enable me - not strengthen me.

Did anyone watch the movie or read the story, “Cinderella Man” with Russell Crowe? He played the fighter Jim Braddock who hit hard times in the Depression. He and his wife, played by Renee Zellweger, worked hard and did what they could to scrape by and that still was not enough to survive. So he swallowed his pride and asked for help. He asked friends and he asked the government. This movie grabbed me because I know what that kind of pride is like. My favorite part was after he bounced back, began fighting well and made a good living, he repaid the welfare. He considered it a loan until he got on his feet. His determination got him where he knew that he could go. I knew that the best feeling for him was not in making more money - it was “keeping his word”. That was what meant the most to him.

When my spirit had been broken and I needed the support of my family and friends, I had to swallow my pride and take their help. But I only wanted a hand up, not a hand out. I didn’t want someone to give me that proverbial fish… I wanted someone to ‘teach me how to fish’. After a month of returning back to Chattanooga, that was all the time that I intended to stay at my friend’s home. I knew it would be hard, but I had a seed. I needed to sew it. Sometimes I think that I am still at the rotor tilling part… but it feels good.

Now, to pull away from the seed and the sewing, to move on from fishing… there are days when I feel that living on my own is like jumping out of an airplane and shouting “Geronimo!” Many adrenaline junkies are reading this and saying, “But that is so fun!” I used to want to go skydiving. I am sure it would be exhilarating, but if I ever did that I would make sure I had a parachute. I would make sure I knew where the rip cord was. I would make sure that I knew how to avoid birds.
As I ‘jumped out of the airplane’, paying deposits and more deposits and rent and new bills, I knew it would be a lot of work but I also knew that “little Jenny” was no different than anyone else who had to live on their own and I could do it.

At the same time, I am learning to juggle my busy schedule of two jobs and I learned to use a daily planner. It is stressful trying to keep it all together and always feeling behind. I can toss the balls in the air, but figuring out which hand to catch which ball first can be tricky and the juggling act gets quite burdensome. It is when I have the balls in the air that I wish I didn’t jump out of the airplane.

Now, as I have talked with single friends over the years, it seems the mutual goal in life was to find that significant other that helped make life easier. When my married friends have emotional support of their spouse, when they have two incomes and their stress load is lessoned, they have a peace and a comfort knowing they have a partner in their life. But if you shout “Geronimo!” in a marriage and you do not know where the rip cord is or how to land safely - sometimes even thinking about going back and taking the sky diving lessons is scary.

I had a brother in-law when I was a young girl who caught me shooting off my mouth saying that I could ride a horse “bareback”. Yes, I rode a horse bareback, but at age 11. I wanted to make him think that I did it alone and not with my knowledgeable horse-lover girlfriend. He felt it was his duty to take my false pride down a notch. He put me on a horse that had not been broken in and made me ride it without a saddle. That horse took off before I had a chance to say, “giddy-up!” or “Whoa!” It headed straight for the barn and I had to make a mili-second decision to try and jump off or ride with it under the barn… or worse… become the headless horsewoman.

Luckily, there was a ledge on the barn that I grabbed as the horse slid out from under my derriere. I was left dangling from the barn until I jumped down. I stomped back across the farm and with my bruised ego intact as I tried to come up with a way to redeem myself (new with horses at that age, I had no idea that I had an unbroken horse). I told my brother in-law that I meant to do that. “It was a stunt!” Then he did the unthinkable. Yes, he made me get back on the horse! I’d love to tell you that I rode that horse bareback and broke him in, but in the second attempt, I learned how to jump off of a horse – BEFORE he got to the barn! The point is… I got back on the horse.

When “getting back on the horse” in life it doesn’t always mean “back in the saddle” as Gene Autry sang. Now, when I ride a horse, I actually “prefer” to ride bareback, at least I did with Smokey. He was a good horse. I have to think that the “horse” for me now, is living on my own. And in the meantime, I am taking fishing lessons, juggling lessons and skydiving lessons!

Jen Jeffrey
jen@jenjeffrey.com


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