Tonight I sit and think about the women that influenced me in my life. I was one of the fortunate ones that had many, strong-willed, loving and determined women in my life. Tonight I hope that in some small way, they understand the path I have traveled and in some small way they are proud of me.
My Grandmother Swift (Granny) was bigger than life. If I close my eyes, I see her with her gray hair pulled up in a bun, falling around her face. I see her in a house dress, barefoot. It’s funny that I don’t think of Granny wearing shoes unless she was in the garden or going to Church. Maybe she’s the reason I kick my shoes off as soon as I walk in the house. As a young child, I think I was always a little apprehensive around Granny. She wasn’t one to hug and kiss us a lot as I remember. She was determined in every movement. I remember her singing songs, reading poems, rocking in one of the rocking chairs that GrandDaddy made. She was fiercely independent and steadfast in her faith. It was very early in my life that she taught me how easily people can twist the Bible to make it say what they want it to say. I’m so thankful she got to see my daughter and so sad she never got to see my son. She was a rock to my mother when my mom was sick and it’s only now I think I fully understand how hard it was for her to watch her daughter dying of cancer. I cannot imagine a pain greater than losing a child.
My Grandmother Short (Mam-Maw) raised us for many years. We lived with her and I now know and appreciate how hard it was on her to raise her grandchildren – to balance discipline and love and feel the responsibility for more children when your own were grown. Mam-Maw made elegant deserts and set a beautiful table. It was the memories of her Blue Ridge dishes – that somehow disappeared – propped up in her china cabinet that made me always want to make a celebration at the table. Pretty linens, and pretty dishes. It is her voice I hear in times of sadness or despair – singing Peace in the Valley. It calms me. Today, I think of her every time I make a bed. Maybe she would smile as I throw the bed together and don’t make perfect hospital corners on all those sheets because she would never have done that. Keeping her house was her life work – no, not keeping a house, keeping a home. That white house was the home she built for us and I was devastated to lose it. Maybe that’s why I understand so well how my Grandson feels.
My mother was the rebel in the bunch. She played semi-pro basketball. She always wore jeans and cut offs. She hated housework and loved being outside. She would rather play a game of touch football than wash a sink full of dishes. Mom had a spark in her that could not be diminished. I remember my grandmother telling me that while she was pregnant with my sister, Barb, she put two horses side by side, with one foot on the back of each horse and rode standing up – now this was not something that pleased my Dad at all. But everyone survived. Mom loved to read – I think it was her escape and her way of traveling to all the distant places she never got to see. Once she was in the story – you did not get her out. “Mom, the house is on fire.” “Um huh. That’s good.” It was so hard to see this woman who was so strong and so independent suffer so much. We lost her much too early. She never got to see her grandchildren and I know they would have brought her the same great joy my grandchildren bring to me. She taught me what it means to be family and the importance of dancing in the living room. Maybe that’s where I get my silly streak – who knows?
Mary married my Dad after we lost mom. I don’t refer to her as my step-mother. She was always Mary – Susie’s mother. Mary was my friend, my advisor, my long-distance phone call on many, many long and lonely nights. She taught me what it meant to forgive and to move forward and never look back. We watched soap operas together, spilled spaghetti on the floor, secretly poured gravy that refused to thicken down the drain all the time swearing we never made any! She reminded me of the value of family and face to face conversation. It was my time with this remarkable and faithful woman who helped me untangle the most difficult time of my life. I don’t think I could have ever forgiven myself without her there to guide me. Thank you Susie and Tommy for sharing her with me.
That brings me to the two remarkable women I was fortunate enough to have as sisters – Rosie and BJ. Rosie had the fiery temper – she spoke her mind and never looked back. She was ALWAYS there. Not just for me, but for anyone that was down on their luck. She had a heart bigger than anyone. I remember how much I always envied her talents. She made her own clothes, she taught herself to play guitar and she knew more about politics than I will ever know. BJ was my big sister with the big, beautiful laugh that never met a stranger. She, too, would give you the shirt off her back if she thought you needed it. She was there for my daughter during one of the hardest times of her life – when I could not be there – and for that I will be forever grateful. We were young moms together when neither of us had our own mom to lean on. We lost Rosie much too early, and I refuse to let go of BJ. Rosie always lives in our conversations and memories. And there will always be the cabin…
So many strong beautiful women in my life – this just scratches the surface. I have been blessed with such good role models and friends. Throughout my life I have tried to honor them by telling their stories and keeping them all ever-present in my life. On this Mothers’s Day I am thankful and proud of my history and the legacy of such rare breeds of women. I would not be who I am without them and I feel grateful that they loved me throughout my life even with all my quirks and faults. I know I am a very, very lucky woman.
I want to say Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who continue to love, nurture and support the lives of others. To me, this is the true spirit of motherhood. I have been blessed to have so many of these women in my life. I am also blessed to know that all my grandchildren have these same types of strong beautiful women as their mothers. And to my grandchildren yet to be born – you are already loved. You will be born into a family of fabulous women and I can only hope that one day, they tell you the stories of those who paved the way for all of us.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!