in celebration of strong women

I feel incredibly lucky to have been raised by strong women. I absorbed so much from my mother, grandmothers and great-grandmothers about friendship, about kindness, about cooking, about the importance of having a strong voice, and using it. 

I deeply appreciate the time I was able to live with my grandmother and her mother during college, a different kind of formative years, but increasingly precious to me. I did not know at the time, after my grandfather died and my great-grandmother moved in, just how amazing those years would be. The bond that formed between the three of us, the way our lives and stories intertwined is forever part of who I am. I miss my Granny often, her sharp wit, her kind eyes. I wish she could see our lives now, that she could see how often I go to her recipes, her stories for comfort. I wish she could see my brother as a father. She would recognize instantly the joy that my niece brings to our lives. Out of all the things I learned from her, the ability to find happiness in the small things still holds significant value for me. 

Granny was never one to hide her emotions. If she was upset with you, you knew it. When she was happy, she would clap her hands with excitement and throw her head back. She loved surprises, Hershey's kisses, a card, or lavender hand cream. Her favorite thing to do was tell stories, and she was masterful. Even when she was suffering with emphysema as a complication of asbestosis, she loved spinning a tale. I wish now, I'd recorded her voice. Sometimes I can barely remember it. She worried a lot in her later life, as her health started to fail. Cooking brought her peace because it kept her busy, and when I lived with her, there was no shortage of cornbread. Man, I miss that cornbread. 

There is so much of her in my Grandmother and I noticed it most when we all lived together, the way they argued and fussed over one another. After all, just exactly who was taking care of whom? 

I was pretty self-absorbed in my 20's (isn't that what they're for?), so perhaps I didn't always recognize just how much I was learning from them. But I know it now. 

I think what I appreciate most from my mother and grandmothers is that my voice, what I had to say and how I said it mattered. My thoughts, my words, my opinions were valued. My creativity was always encouraged, and my stories, plays and poems always listened to, no matter how many times they'd been heard before. 

I was not always right, and I did not always get my way, but I always felt that I was contributing to a conversation, a decision, an argument. As a kid, I always felt free to speak my mind, to share what I thought. I was a bit of a show off because I knew I was smart and my parents constantly tried to encourage me to be nicer to others who didn't read as much as I did or who didn't have the same kind of support system. The fact that there were kids in my class who didn't read books outside of school confounded me. Admittedly, I'm still a bit of a snob when it comes to reading. Proudly I say, "it's how I was raised." 

I'm so grateful for a mother who listened to me, even when I swore she could never possibly understand me, who valued me as a person and showed me how to be kind. My mother always encouraged my dreams, and never made me feel silly for having them. 

The women in my family have all raised me; they taught me how to tell stories, how to say what I mean. They taught me that words have power, and they showed me how to wield it. From cooking to relationships I learned the importance of sharing ideas, connecting with others, collaboration. But mostly I learned what it means to have a strong voice and to believe in it.

I'm not sure there's anything better that a daughter can know. 

This year, I celebrate the strong women in my life, and say "thank you" from the deepest pieces of my being. I will forever be grateful for the legacy you've given me and continue to give.