As I dressed yesterday, I decided to be celebratory. After all, it was my birthday. So I dug through my costume jewelry in search of the ‘good stuff’ – the things I have inherited or been given from the women in my family.
On went the ring from Aunt Lucie which she gave me when I graduated from law school. . . my Grandmother Bertha’s bracelet, which my mother had saved for me when I graduated from college . . . and the pearls my mother gave me when I turned 40 (I think – the particular birthdays fade with time) – a reminder we’d come a long way from the days when my Dad would search for pearls for Mom in his oyster stew . . . leaving behind my other grandmother’s wedding ring (too small for my hands and the chain I used to wear it on broken) and her cameo, a necklace from Lucie and trinkets from friends over the years.
Most of the time I don’t wear much jewelry – maybe some earrings, the cross and ankle bracelet gift from my kids for Mother’s Day – that’s about it.
This birthday I decided festive and bejeweled was the order of the day.
But mostly, as I searched and reminisced, I was minded of the long line of women in which I stand . . . for the gifts of remembering and love they have given me . . . for the contributions they made to their world . . .
Grandmother Bertha a teacher and shaper of little minds made to resign when she married but called back to teach later in life when the men went off to war yet again. . . an old lady by the time I came along, I seldom saw that side of her – the teacher side – but there was one day when she was visiting I remember well. It was summer and my friends and I were playing in the back yard when a couple of older boys came along and knocked down everything we had been building and making – until, that is, my Grandmother came striding out with her cane which she needed by then to walk and which she shook at the boys as she ordered them to leave us alone – which they did. These boys didn’t listen to anybody. But they listened to Bertha. And my 8-year-old eyes saw her in an entirely new light – the lady so seemingly stern and ladylike in her manners became my heroine and taught me how to stand up for others – it’s not that hard, really – you just do it.
And my adult self knows something else too: whether the boys left or not, Grandmother was brave and doing what was necessary and I loved her for that.
She gave that sense of fair play and what is right to her daughters, my aunt and my mother. Lucie worked all her adult life as a social worker with young people. And she took in strays – kids on the run, children of friends having a hard time, young family members in life transitions of our own – we all found a welcoming place in Lucie’s home.
And Mom, who took on those same boys later in life when the bullying had gotten out of hand and she saw I wasn’t up to the job she gave me of fending for myself. And the bullying stopped.
I come from a long line of formidable women – strong, independent, seekers after justice, believers in the power of change for the better, workers for what needs doing without much fuss.
If I stand for anything, count for anything in this life, it is to them I owe the debt of thanks.
Oh, what a lucky, blessed woman am I.