I come from a small 4 generation family of amazing women. The matriarch of which is 93 and still sharp as a tack. She is ailing now though, she fell and broke her hip during a visit to Austin to visit her grand-daughter and new great grandaughter. (yes, she flew from Ohio by herself..and was walking down a flight of stairs…in the dark..when she fell. No she never asks for help, is hugely stubbornly independent.) Virginia has llived through 2 world wars, worked in New York during the depression, seen the onset of the information age (she’s an internet fiend now), raised two independent and educated daughters, was married for close to 50 years, and has seen countless paradigms shift and shimmer in the years she has seen this planet circle the sun.
This last summer, my mother, (Virginia’s daughter,) had a close call. She had emergency gall bladder surgery which put her in the hospital for over a week, because (as an independent stubborn woman) she didn’t acknowledge the pain she was feeling before hand. As an only child, I immediately flew back to be with my mom as she recovered. My mother is now my grandmother’s care-taker in Ohio and is having to deal with her own mother’s mortality and the very real possibility of her passing. We are both dealing with our own finite breath, our own mortality and the selfish realization of our potential loss, that we may not always have our mothers as the stalwart edifice in our past, the rock on which we can lean, the stability we crave.
I usually deal with issues I’m facing creatively, whether in artform or writing. So, on that note I give to you my fellow locals who may be facing the same or similar issues…my century of women.
A Century of Women,
For Virginia, Dinah, Paula, Hannah, Jody, Meredith and Vivian
For one hundred years we are children.
Playing in the back yard, braids flying, bare feet in tickly grass, smiling at flowers. Singing every day, running through sprinklers, wading at the shore, our dresses traded for over-alls and the soft fur of our favorite pets. We squeal with delight at watermelon, licorice candy and strawberry shortcake with real whipped cream. ‘Mama!’ We cry and run to hug her waist, feel her strength and safety as she smiles down at us and sees the reflection of her own youth.
For one hundred years we are dreamers.
Vibrant young women, hair thick and glossy.. our breasts and hearts swelling with life and the promise of future. We are smart, healthy, beautiful and our education has been our primary goal. We are independent and hold the love of generations in our hands. We can do anything – there is no goal we haven’t met, no wrong choices we’ve made, no path untaken. We ache to give it, to share. Our laugh is throaty and full of joy as we squeeze her hand in affection. ‘Mama’ we smile and then turn to walk away.
For one hundred years we are defenders.
We are at the forefront of our families – always offering the largest piece, the prime cut and choice serving to our husband, our children, our guests. We represent our names. We are the defenders of our homes and honor that role. We clean, scrub and shine every space we call home. We offer our children a better way.. advice on health, beauty, education, career, love – not out of criticism.. but because we are her. Her success is our own. ‘Mama’ she cries as she calls us on the phone..our lives still entwined over thousands of miles. Her tears stream down our cheeks and are kissed away by her smile.
For one hundred years we are survivors.
Our secrets are well and hidden, and we’ve spent our lives overcoming them. Our pain, guilt, abuse, trauma, sickness have followed us. But we square our shoulders, and walk toward our end knowing that the shortest way out is straight through it. We do not escape, we don’t look for the easy way out. We survive the darkness, feeling alone for a moment…but knowing we have the strength of generations supporting us. ‘Mama’ we whisper into her ear, as she hears the love we feel. Resting on her last pillow, a papery smile and gleam in her eye the only answer we need.
For one hundred years we have lived in a state of grace.
For out of destruction – we find hope
For out of pain -we take strength
For out of failure – we find opportunity
For in the face fear – we take courage
For in loss – we gain faith
For out of adversity… we build character
For in the face of death… we see a new beginning…
For out of flesh – eternity…