Wednesday, May 6, 2009
She was the most influential woman in my life!
If you've been following my blog for a while, you know that I've talked many times about the most influential and pivotal woman in my upbringing. My greatgrandmother Ema. Without a doubt, this woman was one of the most important in my life, apart from my mother and my stepmother and grandmothers, my greatgrandmother Ema was around me most of my life, she was there during the scariest and happiest times.
I would sit for hours at the kitchen table, with a cookie in hand and a cup of tea with milk, listening to her voice. This soft, sweet and sometimes demanding and strict tone, but for the most part, I sat there entranced by her stories, the things she had been through which were for me not only interesting but sad. I felt immense sadness listening to her talk about her mom passing away when she was just 4 years old, how she became the woman of the house, cooking and cleaning and taking care of her father, setting the table and sitting down to dinner with her own glass of wine when she was merely 8 or 9 years old.
See nowadays we look at that and think "are you kidding me? I wouldn't give my child a glass of wine" but for some reason, it seemed to be acceptable back then. It stuck with her, she drank that glass of wine for lunch and dinner EVERY.SINGLE.DAY of her life until the day she died.
The reason I'm talking about her again is because while speaking with Jasmine yesterday about my childhood and the family, it struck me again just how blessed and lucky I was to have such a woman in my life. To know that from the moment I was a wee little one, she had such a positive impact on who I am today.
She didn't sugar coat things, you won't ever hear me say that at any point in time, she glossed over life and marriage and having children. Far too many times she flat out said "it's not easy, it's life" and I thought to myself, well that doesn't make me really look forward to anything. But just as quick she would smile and she would go on about how much she loved her husband, my greatgrandfather.
She was but 16 years old when they got married and he, a strapping handsome 29 year old. I think for her she saw a way out of the life she was living. This was a girl who lost her mother at 4 years old.....came home from school at 13 years of age, walked into the kitchen, and found her father dead. He had hung himself....and if that in itself wasn't traumatic enough for her, she lost her older brother to a fishing accident, where he got struck by lightning. I mean this could all be part of a movie or book but it's not, it's real life and the fact that she survived all this just shows what a strong woman she was.
We used to talk about marriage and motherhood, what it entailed, what it would be like and what was expected of me as a wife and mother. It's all things that nowadays I tend to think about and wonder if I'm giving my daughter the right advice, the right idea about life without making it all seem peaches and cream or really hard to deal with.
So I guess to me the best thing is to do what my Greatgrandmother did for me, tell me the truth, not lie about anything and answer all my questions as fairly and truthfully as she could, even on those subjects that would be taboo. I still remember the day she tried to tell me about her wedding night, she described it as "I was so nervous, I was shaking, the bed was shaking and nothing was happening...YET". Hahahahahahah
She talked about modesty and romance and mother duties and how to clean a home, when to have dinner ready for your husband and what pots and pans are best for cooking this or that. Stuff that maybe at the time I thought was completely unneeded by me, I mean I was young, what did these things matter when right after we were done chatting I would go back to playing with my dolls or painting pictures and waited for the dinner call, which I didn't have to prepare.
But I am so glad I kept all that information tucked away inside me, there are so many days that I go back and remember some advice she gave on how to clean something or home remedy and apply it to my daily life. Tried and True Advice from this amazing little lady who lived such a full life surrounded by family. She never stopped smiling and she never stopped working, she puttered around the kitchen with her walker until her last days, she cooked, she cleaned, she gave out orders from the table, she asked for specific meals or a little favorite snack.
She had her rituals, she had to have wine with lunch and dinner, she had to have tea with milk and toast for breakfast but coffee on Sunday's.....she always had a banana or something else after her meals, usually Saltine crackers, and she always used butter, pure, yummy butter, no such thing as margarine on her bread.
And you know what? I soaked all that in, all of it, even things I thought I had forgotten, I go back to and remember and I'm so thankful for that, my only wish if I could change anything, is that she would be here today, so that I could call her on the phone and ask a question or advice or even just laugh about a mishap I had or something I did at home that was dumb.
I am going to try my best to be that woman for my daughter, to be the pillar of strength and information that she will carry with her for the rest of her life, the kind of things she'll pass on to her own children. I don't think I'll ever be able to match the unbelievable, amazing woman that my Greatgrandmother was, but I'm sure I can do her proud.
So I want you to take a moment and think about who that woman was for you, who was the most influential woman in your life and tell me a little about her, I want to honor them all, the mothers and stepmothers, grandmothers and greatgrandmothers or maybe it was an aunt or a sister, let's give them the praise they deserve.