I want to write a strong and striking post for Tara Sophia Mohr’s Grandmother Power Blogging Campaign. But day after day, as I’ve stared at this screen, I’ve been struck by just how disconnected I feel from the two women who hold the actual title of “Grandmother” in my life. They are the lineage from which I descend and yet they are distant, long ago, long gone, far away.
Berniece and Pauline.
Berniece. My mother’s mother. Determined and driven. Familiar with grief. Her husband died in a tragic accident, leaving her to care for my mom, only 5, and my aunt, then 3. She told my mother, years later, “I tried to be strong in front of you and your sister and not cry. I didn’t allow myself to express my emotions.” She remarried, had three more children, and then set about the work of raising her family. Curious, adventurous, and always learning. Odd-but-full-of-promise remedies: green drinks, healthy food, the power of positive thinking. An artist; oil and china paintings gracing her home and ours. And hardly subtle – in opinions, in decorating, in appearance. A round bed covered in shocking pink. Huge peacocks that hung proudly over the couch, precision-cut from Shasta cans. Custom-made hats to match most every outfit. Créme de menthe on vanilla ice cream. Flamboyant and impossible to ignore: Berniece.
Pauline. My father’s mother. Incredibly warm. Highly affectionate. So much desire for so much more. Her words haunt: “I always felt loved but I never felt cared for.” Much sadness. Much grief. A life of little means – barely getting by. Invested in the church, in her faith, in her God. She worried about and doted on her two sons. She loved in nearly-overwhelming ways. She laughed. She had dimples to die for. Her eyes twinkled. And she loved The Lawrence Welk Show. She sang in the church choir. She had handkerchiefs and white gloves. She took me back-to-school-shopping every Fall. We’d sit at a soda fountain and have a ladies-lunch. She was proud-beyond-compare of her grandchildren and couldn’t get enough of them. And she was ill, so much of the time. Years of heart problems finally claimed her. A heart that loved and longed. Pauline.
As I wander through the sparse words found to describe them, scenes flicker back to life and memory begins to serve. I see more of them. And then, surprisingly, I see more of me: Always learning. An artist. Flamboyant and impossible to ignore. Full of desire. Invested in her faith and in her God. Laughter. A heart that loves and longs. I feel connected to them, held by them, supported by them. They are of, with, and in me. Not apart from them; I am a part of them. I remember.
When I remember, the presence and power of my grandmothers is alive, ample, accessible, and mine.
When we remember, the presence and power of all grandmothers and countless women throughout history is ever-available to all of us, all the time. It knows no limit, no lack, no bounds: this endless source, this deep well, this infinite embrace.
But oh, we are so prone to forget.
- Forgetting causes us to feel alone in this world, in relationships, in work, on a given day. But we are not. We are imbued with the presence of every woman who has gone before – known and unknown, blood-kin and total stranger, sacred narrative, ancient myth, family legend. Remember.
- Forgetting causes us to feel weary in this world, in relationships, in work, on a given day. But we need not. We have access to the power of every women who has gone before – their blood in our veins, their stories to sustain, their wisdom to strengthen, encourage, and embolden. Remember.
- Forgetting causes us to feel disconnected and un-witnessed in this world, in relationships, in work, on a given day. But that is far from the truth. The presence and power of every woman who has gone before surrounds us even now, encircles us, embraces us, hears us, sees us, and celebrates us. Remember.
I remember. Berniece and Pauline to be sure, but so many others. Eve. Noah’s wife. Sarah. Hagar. Mary. Elizabeth. The woman at the well. Mary Magdalene. Hildegaard of Bingen. Julian of Norwich. Teresa of Avila. Sojourner Truth. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Audre Lorde. My mother. My sister. My daughters. My friends.
More than enough presence and power is to be found. Look around. Look behind. Look above. Look ahead. Women – in spirit and in truth – surround, sustain, strengthen, and stay.
Berniece and Pauline. The two women who are part of the long and glorious matri-lineage that is mine. The two women who birthed my parents. The two women who held me in their arms. The two women who laughed over me, looked out for me, loved me. The two women deserving of my memory, my honor, my gratitude. The two women who still-now-always surround, sustain, and strengthen me. The two women who stay.
Berniece and Pauline. Two women of so many more. A great cloud of witnesses. A sacred circle. All mine, if only I will remember.
And when I do? They are hardly distant, long ago, long gone, far away. They are here, now, present, and power-full; imbuing me with the same.