The Other Side

I had just turned eighteen the month before Jim and I were married. When I moved to Norfolk, Virginia–where he was stationed for sea duty–we rented a townhouse off of the Naval base in a military family-only subdivision. That neighborhood proved to be something wonderful for me, a much-younger-than-average new bride whose husband would be going out to sea for weeks and months at a time. In the first four years we were married, he was gone for more than two-and-a-half years.

It was okay, though. Even though it was difficult to be apart at the time (this was before cell phones and internet!), my being left at home alone was a learning experience, because I got a crash course in taking care of everything in a household all on my own and I’m still proud of everything I accomplished in those years. I like to tell people that the first few years of our marriage was, for me, a lot like being single (without the dating, of course!) in the way that it made me more independent, more responsible, and more watchful over the details of living life as an adult. You know, like making sure everything in our address book was correct, like so:

Melisa, working out the details of the address book, 1988


Being alone so much in those first few years also drastically improved my problem-solving skills. I really could have done without that time Jim’s pay wasn’t deposited, though. Did I mention this was before internet and cell phones?? In order to communicate with him I had to either wait for him to send me a letter or call me collect from one of his rare stops in a foreign country, or I had to contact the ship captain’s wife and see if she could get in touch with the ship for me. I ate lots of macaroni and cheese that month, and invited myself to friends’ homes for dinner, too.

The situation I was in was really interesting. I was the youngest Navy wife on my block, and although I made fast friends with a few of my neighbors, they were a world away from me on so many things:

1. They had children
2. They had been married for a few years already
3. They were–gasp!–in their mid- to late-twenties already! Like, OLD!

Still they accepted me, literally the new kid on the block, into the fold. We Navy wives stuck together.

One of my favorite pastimes back then was cross stitching. When I wasn’t working my job as Head Cashier at Leewards Craft Store or attending my college classes and taking care of homework, I had a needle in one hand and a loaded embroidery hoop in the another. When Jim was out to sea, it was not unusual for me to cross stitch for six, seven, eight, or more hours in a day. I made things for us and I took care of holiday gifts all year round. I sometimes counted Aida cloth squares in my sleep.

Those neighbors of mine were always amazed that I got that much stitching done (What would have taken them a month, I could finish in a day or two), and let me know about their feelings regularly. I, on the other hand, spent lots of time watching them mother their children in amazement (and with a little jealousy). I knew I wanted children very badly, but it wasn’t time for that yet in our marriage. I was always telling them how I couldn’t wait to have children, and they were always telling me that they wished they had more time for cross stitching.

After five years of marriage, I arrived on the Other Side. We started our family, and the time I had for hobbies and other activities went away as I put my focus on raising the boys. Although I have always loved being a mom, I often–like most other moms–wished for more “Me Time”.

Eventually, and all too quickly, I got that “Me Time”.

Now I’m on the Other Side again. I have raised my children, and although I don’t cross stitch anymore (My eyesight! Eeek! Eleven-count, anyone?) (That was a cross stitch joke, by the way.), I do have time on my hands again and–as you know–keep myself pretty busy. I’m writing, I’m blogging, I’m a social media researcher for BlogHer, I’m producing a show (tickets are on sale now, Chicago!), just to name a few of my activities. The majority of my friends still have children to raise, and they’re always telling me that they wish they had the time to do the stuff I do. I tell them that it’s only a matter of time before they’re on the Other Side too, and that they should enjoy being where they are NOW, before they’re on the Other Side, because NOW goes by really quickly.

I guess what I’m saying here is that “the Other Side” is a state of mind. If everyone would try a little harder to live in the moment and truly enjoy whatever stage of life they’re currently experiencing, we’d all be a lot happier. That’s because the grass isn’t always greener on the Other Side…the grass is greener where you water it. Which would be a really cute cross stitched piece for my wall, but I’ll have to buy some readers first, because my eyesight just can’t handle that.

This post was inspired by “The Grass Is Green On Both Sides”, written by Cathy Adams on her Chicago Now blog, “The Self-Aware Parent”.


  • As Cape Cod Turns

    I like that saying. If I could cross stitch, I would do it for you. Of course my readers, have turned into prescription glasses.
    Where can I get myself a pair of those jeans? 🙂
    I love your stories.

  • Mrs4444

    I can relate on all accounts, of course. What’s occurred to me lately, as I approach FIFTY (insane!) is that I have more of my life (the fun parts) behind me than I do ahead of me, now. I’m not sure what I plan to do about that, but I am enjoying myself, regardless.

  • tracey

    Cross Stitch jokes! This is hurting my sides. Like, actually hurting. This counts for ab work, yes?

    I love that quote. Also, the grass is greener where the dog pooped last year.

    Just an FYI and something to mull over.

  • tracey

    So, maybe the lesson is that we need to water our grass, but not worry about the crap that falls upon it? Because the crap makes it stronger, thicker and greener?

  • MJ Tam

    You and Tracey are such dorks.
    But……what if I have no grass? I live in the city, you know! I have no dog too.

    I am such a loser!

    • tracey

      Hmmmm…. We need a city metaphor.

      Maybe something with cabs? Clean air?

      Why don’t you just come and water MY grass? It could use it.

  • Brandie

    Now I get the facebook comments. Also that would make a lovely sampler. And 11-count is nice to work with sometimes. So, don’t let that hold you back. That said, I feel like you probably are plenty busy 😉

    • Melisa Wells

      Yeah, I’m going to put that project on the backburner for sure. Though I really like the idea of that saying on a pillow…

  • Shannon

    I have never cross stitched. As a matter of fact, I cannot even sew a button.
    I love the story and the message (and the jeans and the hair). And the grass is greener with big hair to shade it.

  • Just Jen

    I love everything about this post. It’s a great reminder to appreciate today before you are sitting around, looking back at a pile of yesterday’s wondering what happened.
    PS – the jeans and the hair are like totally awesome!

    • Melisa Wells

      Thanks! Yes: looking at a pile of yesterdays, wondering what happened is definitely not how people should live. Seize the day! (that was my alternate title. 😉 )

  • Robin Frisch

    This really struck a chord! I needed this post Melisa. Thank you! And I’m checking my grass right now! 🙂

  • Kari

    I had hair like that.
    Mine was a little more Dolly Parton than Loretta Lynn though.
    You are Loretta in this story, in case you didn’t know.
    And now I will call you Loretta.
    Unless you want it to be Loreta.
    With ONE T.
    Anyhoo, I love this post because I feel like I know you a little better.
    And I think….I think….you and I might be very close in age?
    Yet I am still “in the thick of things” when it comes to my children….ages 13 and 5.
    So you are more than welcome to come on up and get your fix or babysit anytime if you are feeling the itch.
    Yeah, I don’t blame you.
    Love this so much and can’t wait to see you Saturday. 🙂

    • Melisa Wells

      Yes, we are very close in age: I graduated (and was married 🙂 ) in ’86!
      I will be Loreta if you will be my Dolly.

      I can’t wait for Saturday either!!

  • Lesa

    Great post! Having sent my last to college in September. I to have crossed to the other side. I think we always think its greener when you put it so well………….The grass is greener where you water it. My son is coming home from Chicago today (yes just a little excited) and I plan to enjoy my time “refueling” and “watering” him as I embrace this new season.

    • Melisa Wells

      Heh. I never told you that? I was the youngest key carrier in the store. OF COURSE. 🙂
      Also, spent a good chunk of my paychecks on glue guns and glitter.

  • Samantha

    Such great perspective and I’m beginning to truly live life and cherish is where I’m at now, not where I will be and why I’m not somewhere else. Thank YOU for the reminder! xo

  • Windy City Mama

    So true the grass is greener where the water is. . I love my daughter’s age now and I’m excited by watching her grow. I make the time for what I want in life. It’s baby steps but I’m still going for what I want to achieve outside if raising my baby girl.

  • Heather

    I loved this. I stop in from time to time to read & this is one of my favorites. Especially now that I’m just starting the “other” side (aka parenthood). It feels weird to have time on my hands but yet.. I don’t cause it’s all devoted to Lucy. Hard to believe that someday I won’t be so wrapped up in her & on yet another “other side”.

    I hope it doesn’t go TOO fast. 🙁

  • Colleen

    I love this. (I’m late to the party, I know. This isn’t new for me.) Anyway…love it. I’ve hit a point in my life recently where I have enough time to come up for air and realize that this child-raising section of my life is actually very short, and I’ll still be very young when its over. {sniff}