jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

Who Are You Going to Be When You Grow Up?

I was driving to school to pick up the kids in my minivan. Like I do every day. Repeat, repeat, repeat.


What does this mean? WOOD PELLETS?!
February 2015

I pulled up behind this truck. WOOD PELLETS HOT TUBS FIRE WOOD, it read.

And I couldn’t help but wonder, how did this come to be? I mean, I guess I get how wood pellets and firewood could be related? But hot tubs? Are they heated with wood? Are they made out of wood? And if so, why not just say WOOD?

And what exactly are WOOD PELLETS? The only pellets I know can be shot out of a firearm, come out of a rabbit’s butt or fill a beanbag chair. Now that would be a truck worth reading. FIREARMS BUNNY BUTTS BEAN BAG CHAIRS. So what are wood pellets already?

In 7th grade did this person picture himself driving a truck that said these things? I almost wanted to follow him into the gas station to see.

the dorkiest school photo of any ever. Jennie, in 7th grade. Complete with a fishbone braid, a bow tie and a striped man's sweater.

Jennie, 7th grade
I coulda been a contender.
Am I right?!

Because in 7th grade I remember doing a report on possible career paths. I made a film strip. Like, I actually drew on the film and then put it through a film projector so everyone could see the teeny tiny drawings I’d done blown up to the size of the screen that hung in front of our world map with the huge USSR on the upper right.

I made my feature full-length film strip on being a comic strip artist by the way, which is more apropos than ironic, I’d say.

I also did a report on where I envisioned myself in 20 years. I vaguely remember writing about being a novelist who lived in a cabin by the ocean. I’d forgotten about all that though until I saw that truck and began wondering about the driver.

So today in the parking lot I asked every mother who passed what she thought she’d grow up to be when she was in seventh grade. One said an architect, the other said she never did picture what she’d grow up to be, the third said a National Geographic scuba diver. Such dreams. I asked my Pilates Mamas and one said a television meteorologist, the other said likely a doctor. There’s probably little surprise then when I tell you that the beautiful lives they’ve all carved out marked by sixteen children among the five of them and such loves, adventures, small accomplishments and large, that only the architect grew to fruition (and she’s at home with her four kids these days.)

Heather standing in the middle of a group of kids at the beach.

My friend, in the middle of it all.
Summer 2014

Yesterday when I sent out a cry for help, asking for someone to pick up my four-year-old daughter from school for me, one of my very best friends texted immediately, “Sure! She can join our merry band!” Because she was already picking up someone else’s five-year-old twins, plus her five-year-old, and she dropped them all at the one who was an architect’s house and then went and literally filled her minivan with seven-year-olds and dropped them all wherever they needed to go before retrieving her three kids.

Just now I texted her to ask what she thought she’d grow up to be, but she hasn’t gotten back to me yet. Too busy.

Too busy schlepping kids and working her part-time job helping people in desperate circumstances get the healthcare they need, plus playing on a tennis team and volunteering at the empty bowl super, selling ads for the ad book, being on the PTA, keeping the house clean, lovingly raising her three kids, making nutritious meals.

Plus running the volunteer composting efforts for her whole entire town.

She made that happen. Volunteer composting offered to every household for a whole entire town, organized by a volunteer. Can you imagine the amount of good this woman inspires every day? Because I’m here to tell you, I drive through town and I see those green composting bins lined up on the curbs, street after street after street. I can more than imagine it.

I doubt she thought she’d grow up with all that printed on the back of her metaphorical truck.

Considering these lives well-lived has helped me quiet that niggling, annoying voice in my head that tells me, “You coulda been a contender,” whenever I tell someone I’m a stay-at-home Mom, or a blogger, or an artist, or sometimes a teacher, occasionally a volunteer. These are not quite the things I thought I’d put on the back of my truck, you know?

But maybe it’s not what we do so much as who we are that really matters. I know this is obvious, so Zen, so post-post-Yoda-feminist. It’s just hard to find sometimes from where we each stand, by the sink, or at the door of our minivan, in the carpool lot or at the PTA meeting, at the watercooler or in front of the class, by the side of our kids’ bathtub or on the sideline of the soccer fields.

I hope that if someone had asked my friend Heather who she wanted to be (rather than what she wanted to be) she would have said, “Someone who gives, someone who takes only what she needs, who nurtures and nourishes and strives for good each day.”

Because that’s who she is each and every day.



Four young children tucked happily in a minivan.

The view from the front of Heather’s minivan.
March 2015

And if you want to give a little bit of applause to someone who has lived a life of giving, please check out this link. Because after years of quietly doing good, Heather Pillis was nominated for an award by MassRecycles. Take a moment, click the link, scroll to the recycling clam, and with one more click, silently say, “Thank you for doing those glamourless things that matter. You deserve a tiara.” (You can vote once a day every day until March 15, 2015. Even if you live in Canada. Just saying.)

12 comments on “Who Are You Going to Be When You Grow Up?

  1. Singbetterenglish
    March 5, 2015

    Voted. People like your friend Heather keep the world turning. I absolutely agree that it’s ‘who we are’ that matters. I wonder why that idea doesn’t sell newspapers.

    • jgroeber
      March 5, 2015

      Thank you! That means the world to me. And to Heather, too.
      I wonder why it’s so hard for each of us to absorb about ourselves- it’s who we are (deep down inside) that matters. My kids get it most days, and yet it’s something I have to remind myself. And remind myself. And remind myself.
      Thanks for the comment, too. Really.

      • Singbetterenglish
        March 6, 2015

        Hi Heather,

        Your friend Heather sounds lovely. I wonder how she’s managed to keep her soul so warm and hardworking. That would be a Studs Terkel-style interview that I’d like to read.

        I think, as women, part of the pendulum swing against ‘just’ looking after your children, as the only valuable, viable option involved denigrating a life that supported family, friends and community too. A lot of bathwater got thrown out along with that baby. I hope that the future will contain all options for all women.

        I think we have to keep reminding our children that it’s the ‘who’ not the ‘what job’ of us that matters. There’s a point when the weight of the story about the importance of getting the best job for the best future begins to squish their certainties about themselves. When people die, nobody thinks ‘I remember everything he did as a CEO.’ They think ‘I remember him teaching me to tie my shoelaces when I was little.’ That’s the kind of thing we leave behind us. Kindness.

        All best wishes

  2. UpChuckingwords
    March 6, 2015

    Voted. I love how you ended this..who we are not what we are. It’s unfortunate that we are weighted by the “whats” in our lives. Sounds like you have a pretty amazing group of women surrounding you 🙂

    • jgroeber
      March 8, 2015

      Ah, thank you for voting! She’s beating Gunther. 😉 And yes, I am gifted with extraordinary women. Not quite sure how I managed it.

  3. kellylmckenzie
    March 8, 2015

    Just placed Bonanza outside in the sunshine and what does she do? Goes and sits on her tidy pile of pellets. Rabbit pellets. I’m not sure what wood pellets are however I am welllll acquainted with rabbit pellets.
    As I write this a dear friend is lying in her hospice bed. I suspect if you asked her in grade 7 what she thought she’d grow up to be she’d have said a clothing designer. She can admire a dress and then create the pattern and whip up the duplicate. Very gifted artistically. What did she become? A wonderful mother who made her daughter countless outfits, a great friend who gifted many artistic gifts and a tireless volunteer. Can’t tell you the amount of giggles we shared over folks who refused to volunteer even a minute of their time. Weeks before her diagnosis she was sheparding worried souls around the hospital in her capacity as a hospital aide. A life well lived. May we all create the same.

    • jgroeber
      March 8, 2015

      What an extraordinary comment. There’s a beautiful post in there, you know. Actually, I think there may be a beautiful book in there. Something that can carry the rest of us through.
      She sounds like a total inspiration. Thank you for sharing that, and for the extra dose of inspiration.
      May we all create the same is right.

  4. talesfromthemotherland
    March 17, 2015

    I missed the voting, but: THANK YOU HEATHER! It truly does take a village, and it’s so good to know that good people live in the huts around you. My guess? Heather would say the same of Jen. xox

    • jgroeber
      March 30, 2015

      Ah, too sweet. And we never did hear if she won or not. What a lousy competition. Still, though, it was terrific to take a moment to celebrate such a generous spirit in our midst.

  5. Jenn Berney
    March 18, 2015

    Maybe I should let you know that at my house we actually do have a hot tub that is a) made out of wood and b) is wood-fired. Also, I’m pretty sure that in seventh grade I hoped to be the first woman President of the United States. That dream lasted through a number of grades but, thank god, it eventually died. I love that you made a filmstrip. I wish film strips were still a part of my children’s primary school experience.

    • jgroeber
      March 30, 2015

      Oh, how I LOVED this response (although it shamefully has taken me an eternity to reply.) I think I may want your wooden wood-fired hot tub. It sort of sounds delicious. Especially on a chilly night.
      Also, I would totally vote for you, I’m pretty sure.
      And, yes. Film strips. Do you remember the beep sound from the tape the teacher would play and the pride and pleasure that came from being the kid selected to advance to the next frame? Our kids will never know such pleasure. 😉

  6. Pingback: Learning to Swim | jen groeber: mama art

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