Even though the men in my life were slightly unpredictable when I was growing up, I was blessed with many strong women who carried me – sometimes literally – through my foundational years. I still get a warm fuzzy feeling when I think about the times that my mom snuggled me through countless childhood illnesses, held my hand in the crashing waves at the beach, and guided my infant gardening skills in the huge rock garden that covered the hill in our front yard.
One grandmother was there to rock me to sleep, to brush my hair, and to hold me tight when the world just got to be too much. When the lilacs are in bloom, I can close my eyes and still feel the comfort of the soft quilt wrapped around me as I slept off my latest heartache in her shady screen room.
Another grandmother taught me that if she could raise eight boys, I could certainly handle one. And that sometimes all it takes to make the world a better place is a Manhattan and a game of bridge. A big bathtub filled with bubbles and a good romance novel never hurt anyone either.
I had “other mothers” too – aunts, cousins, friends. I was even lucky enough to have three great-grandmothers who brought their own brand of old fashioned nurturing to my life. One bribed me with quarters for kisses. Another taught me the value of sneaking ketchup packets into my pockets at McDonald’s and not to eat the part of the cone that the servers touched at Dairy Queen. And I credit the other for my love of custard pie and front porches.
I think sometimes that the most pivotal moment in a woman’s life is when she sees that her idols – her mothers – are actually human. They have flaws and scars and a life beyond mothering. I know I do, and I wonder when that moment will come for my own daughter.
I keep physical reminders around my house so that I stay grounded in who I am, and where I came from. My great-grandmother’s farmhouse table serves as my desk, the jade plant I planted when I was four with my grandmother grows in the corner of the living room, bits of crochet and ceramic bowls are scattered in each room.
They are a manifestation of the melting pot of mothers that make me who I am, and who I will be. I am a product of these mothers, and my daughter is of those and more. Keeping them with me guides me in raising her to be a strong confident woman, blending the best of each.