In the coming weeks, we’ll all be bombarded by media bites about mothers. But that is just one of the roles most women have played. And, while it is perhaps the most important one, it defines only a portion of who we are. The second Sunday in May can be painful for those who have lost a mother, have lost a child or who never became a mother. Instead, I prefer to celebrate women for all of their complicated layers – for their infinite worth and immeasurable value.
Girl power. Female fortitude. Women sticking together. Call it what you want. It’s a unique phenomenon, foreign to those who have not been fortunate enough to witness or experience it.
I’m not much of a feminist. But I know a good thing when I see one. All my life, I have been stronger because of the women in my life. As a young child, my mother and my grandmothers were my role models. Their options in life were much more limited than mine are. But their convictions were not.
My Nana, Florence, arrived at Ellis Island at the age of 22 with her husband and a baby. She worked hard and bought a house. She had three more babies before losing her husband when her youngest, my mother, was only nine-years-old. She remained in that house until her death at the age of 92. She still wore her wedding rings and slept in the same bed she had shared with my grandfather, refusing to replace it. And she never traded in her citizenship of England. She was loyal and fiercely independent.
My paternal grandmother, Grace, worked outside the home and bought herself a Ford Mustang convertible in her later years. She was outspoken and you always knew where you stood with her. She had her own style. And she didn’t care who liked it or who didn’t.
My mother, Barbara, was a nurturer. She, among other talents, was an extraordinary homemaker. She made sure I knew how to act in public (some might say she was remiss!) and she was responsible for my religious and spiritual growth. In a time when a woman’s role was well defined, she embraced every aspect of it. She was first and foremost a wife and a mother. She was selfless and tenacious in her womanhood.
There were others along the way who influenced me: Aunts, neighbors, teachers, coworkers. My best friend’s mother, growing up, Eileen, was an amazing woman. In a time when single parents were rare, she was raising seven children, by herself. Their small house never felt so. Despite the number of inhabitants, it was always calm and orderly. She was gentle and soft spoken but she had a firm, non-negotiable bottom line. She raised each of her seven children to become responsible, kind, successful adults. Show me a family that can make that same claim today.
Nowadays, the strong women who surround me are mostly friends. We have reached a place in our lives when it’s likely that we’ve known one another for several decades. We have supported each other thru the births, and in some cases, the deaths, of our children. There have been long, happy marriages and divorces; serious illnesses, loss of parents and spouses, new homes, new careers, and countless celebrations.
In my life, I have had many good friends who were not women. I cherish them and benefit enormously from the different perspective they provide. I am not – and never will be – a man hater. That’s not what this is about. It’s just that women give each other something that they cannot get elsewhere. Perhaps it comes from knowing what it’s like to walk a mile in each other’s heels, or Nikes, or Birkenstocks. Maybe it’s because we share a similar history of another generation of women who molded us.
All I know for sure is that the women in my life are there when I need them. No question. No hesitation. They are never too busy. They are there like nobody else. They are there with a vengeance. They are strong, loyal, nurturing and selfless. They are braver than anyone I know. They love unconditionally.
Recently, I spent a few days traveling and training with five amazing new women in my life. We quickly bonded and shared the beautiful differences as well as the commonalitiebetween us. I love knowing that, no matter how full my life becomes, there is always room for my circle to grow.
For Florence, Grace, Barbara, Eileen and all of the women in my world: Thank you. You continue to influence me as I evolve into the woman I am. For my current friends and colleagues, ministers and writers, fiddlers and choir mates, I salute you. You are my all sisters and I am eternally grateful. I celebrate each of you, every day. I couldn’t do it without you.