Reprinted from May 7, 2016
I’m the lucky one. I have had mothering and mentoring from at least four wonderful women. They mutually excelled one another in the gifts they have given me.
When I read my past post about Mother, I feel as if I have said most of it. I learned to appreciate her particular brand of motherhood many years ago. When I understood her I stopped yearning for the mother I thought I wanted. I saw her as the perfect teacher in my life who gave me all that she had.
And the genetics! It isn’t all living inside my head while life goes around me or struggling with the “Biddle Belly”. Part of that gift is physical stamina and mental acuity. It is brains and sturdiness as well as high cholesterol and blood pressure. It is physical well-being and the ability to multi-task. It is doggedness and determination as well as over-analysis and self-absorption.
Thank you, Oletha, for giving me all the love you were able to give.
My dad’s wife was a huge blessing in my life. I don’t call her my stepmother because she was the real deal.
She was the one who taught me that a mother could be current. She held and discussed strong opinions on everything from sex to Dick Cheney. She never allowed me to hide behind the “daughter” image. She saw me as a woman and called me to stand in the position. Never sentimental, she viewed life pragmatically, owned her own history and expected the same of others.
In my group of mothers, she was the only one who willingly exposed herself as a sensual being. She was a consummate wife – ever attentive to the needs and desire of her husband, my father. And the attentive caregiver to all of the children and grandchildren who landed at her door.
How did she do all of this and remain so totally herself? I don’t know. But it was a wonderful balance to behold. A woman who embraced her traditional roles and yet held herself in high esteem as a person.
Thank you, dear Leelah, for being a true mother to me.
And then there is my husband’s mother. (She asked me not to call her my mother-in-law because of the bad connotations.) When her son and I announced that we were planning to be married within a month, she asked, “Not that it matters, but do you have to?”
We could say, “No,” but it was a fair question since I was still a teenager and my husband was just twenty. And just as easily as that she whined a minute about us getting married in her busiest season at work (Christmas) and then made way for her daughter-in-law.
I can’t think why I haven’t written before about this powerhouse in my life. A true career woman, she still managed to be the matriarch. She hosted (or cooked most of) all holiday meals. She shopped for and presented gifts for birthdays and Christmas as if she were a woman of leisure. And she hosted slumber parties for her grandchildren at which they stayed up late with her in the midst of them – sprawled on the floor watching silly television shows and eating all manner of goodies.
She stood firmly as the protector and defender of our entire family without asking for explanations or rationalizations. We were right! That was all there was to it! And in all my years in her family I never felt outside. She was a lesson in acceptance. If I can be that woman in the lives of my children’s partners, I will give her the credit.
Thank you, Ann, for taking me in and holding me closely through so many years.
And what can I say about my lifelong BFF? I’ve written so much about her role in my life. My mentor, my friend, my hero.
She’s really too young to be my mother but too influential to leave out if I am talking about the women in my life. She was there from the time I was pregnant with my first child, teaching me what to expect and walking through those first years of motherhood by my side.
We shared so much – thoughts, hopes, dreams, fears, resentments and joys. She, too, had her children when she was young. Her little stairsteps were the first “babysitters” of my children. I would pay them to play with the toddlers on the grass while we sat drinking coffee in the back yard.
My role model of marriage and motherhood is sinking into dementia now. But her face still lights up and my heart still sings when I see her. *
Thank you, Mary, for helping me be the woman I have wanted to be.
I count my blessings. And I count each of these women as one of my blessings. I hope you will click on the links and read more about each of them. I owe tribute to each of them.
*Mary died last year