This will be a series of posts to honor the women in my life.
I believe that we all come to be who we are because of the people who surround us.
Although men have been influences to me, I would like to concentrate on the women.
I would like to start at the beginning. Perhaps you think that this would be my mother, but it is not.
My mother had a very hard life. As the story goes, when I was 4 days old I went to live with my grandma. Only problem - grandma was not my grandma. She was the mother of the lady who was taking care of my sister who is 3 years older than me. Confused? She also had 13 other children. When her real grandchildren came over, they all called her grandma, so that is where I must have picked up the name. She was born and raised in Canada on a farm. She was married 3 times and had 16 children, two who died. I lived with grandma until I was 8 years old.
Grandma was robust, with soft spots to cuddle when things weren't going my way. She had snowy white hair which she wore in a bun, but at night before bed she would let it down. It was very long and I would brush it 100 strokes every night.
Grandma had very strong ideas about what a woman was all about. She didn't drink alcohol and she did not smoke. She believed in God and prayer. She kept a spotless home. She treasured the things she had. She was never sloppy when going out in public. She loved her family. She believed in education. She didn't tolerate crap from men. Grandpa came by often for visits, but did not live with us. Sometimes he stayed for hours, sometime for days. I can't say that I understand this relationship as they were married, and as a child I never questioned it. I was just always happy to see him. I think she cared for him, but just couldn't live with him.
Grandma was a story teller. She would tell me about when her children were young and all the things they did. She had many pictures and it was one of my favorite things to have her tell me who everyone was and what they were like.
Grandma was a sewer. She made all her clothes and much of mine. I remember her fingers bleeding from stitching braided rugs together. She loved to crochet and taught me simple stitches.
At 8 years old, I went to live with my mother and my sister. It tore my heart apart to be separated from grandma. She had an eye disease and one of her eyes had to be removed. Her sense of humor was "I'm blind in one eye and can't see out of the other."
She lived for 6 more years. I often took the bus to her place and spent many hours in her sewing room, talking and watching her work. I remember two pictures that hung on her walls, one of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and one of president John F. Kennedy. She died at 85 years old.
Grandma gave me my first sense of who I am, a strong woman in a hard world. Someone who doesn't give up easy. I think my faith in God comes from her. I feel that she let me know that thinking for myself was a good thing. Having a contentment with what I have in life, and treasuring it would be something she would like. Working with my hands in a constructive, artistic way would have appealed to her.
I am pretty sure that an inner longing to be part of a big family comes from this time. And maybe the reason I spent most of my teens and twenties rebelling against society was because the simple life she lived was no longer possible in my world.
I never did inherit or learn to keep a spotless house. I often run to the store with a baseball cap on my head and I enjoy a beer or cocktail from time to time.
Sometimes when I least expect it, she comes to me in a thought or action. It's like she is telling me that she likes who I have become and is proud of me, but that there is always room for improvement.