Women in My Family: A Legacy of Victory.
Dear future daughter,
You read this in 15 years.
You’ll be 10 perhaps, or maybe seven, and you sit on the couch before bed and say, “Tell me a story, mom.” I don’t pull out a copy of some picture book we borrowed from the library or bought at a bookstore or recite some dull nursery rhyme. I sit down next to your little body and I tell you about your lineage. The line of women you hail from.
“You come from a line of warriors,” I begin.
You let out a laugh, maybe there’s a gap-toothed smile.
“Really?” you ask.
I nod my head and smile at you.
“What do you mean by ‘warriors’?”
“Strong women. Your great grandmother was a full-time teacher, in a time when women were not encouraged to work.”
You blink, not quite understanding.
“Why not? Women can work now.”
“She was one of few women who decided to go against what society wanted.”
“She sounds brave.”
“She was. She wanted grandma and her sister to study rather than do housework.”
“She sounds smart.”
I leave out the part that she went through the Great Depression and the Second World War. I leave out the fact she had an alcoholic husband and had to basically raise three children on her own. I leave out the fact the family suffered financially and psychologically, traumatizing her grandmother and her two siblings for life.
I want you to remember your great-grandmother as a strong woman, who loved books, music and owned a shih tzu named Pumpkin. I clear my throat, trying not to weep.
“What about grandma, mom?”
“Grandma was a geologist and a lawyer.”
I blink back tears, trying to hold it together. You’ve never met her and she hasn’t met you, although I think she sees you up in the heavens sometimes. You came into this world after she died.
“What’s a geologist?”
“It’s someone who studies the earth, studies the rocks and minerals that form the inside of this planet. She did that when not a lot of women chose those types of careers.”
Your eyes widen, curious.
“She sounds brave!”
“What’s a lawyer, mom?”
“They practice law and help people get justice when something bad happens to them.”
“Why did she have two jobs?”
“She worked as a geologist before I came along, and then she went back to school to study law and worked as a lawyer.”
“Lawyer sounds like ‘warrior’!”
We both break out into a giggle.
I leave out the trauma your grandma endured in her life. The alcoholic father, the divorces, single motherhood, the failed geology business, soured friendships, estranged siblings, the hectic moves, the workaholism, and a cancer diagnosis. I don’t want you to feel the pain I felt when she told me all the truths of her past. The horrors no little girl should have to hear and listen to.
I don’t want you to think you have to prove yourself to others for praise and validation. True, she did teach me that learning gets you through tough times, and that knowledge is the one thing people can’t take away from you.
“Is that why you studied history and write, because you want to tell other people things, tell them the truth?”
“That’s part of it.”
“It sounds like you’re a warrior, too!”
I giggle a little.
You’re right, writer does sound a little like warrior.
I omit the fact it’s because I wanted to escape into different worlds, different times, and different lives. I too kept something else out: I would go for walks around the neighborhood as a teenager and wondered how everyone else lived; I would go to bed some nights and wanted to wake up in another person’s bedroom or body, to parents who were attuned to them.
I leave out the fact I was bullied at school and kept to myself as a result. I loved to spend weekends as a teenager and twenty-something watching TV, engrossed in fictitious lives and places.
“What will I do when I’m all grown up?”
“Anything, sweetie. You can do anything!”
I leave out the bad, the hurdles you’ll face along the way. The breakups, the job rejections, the friends who leave you, and everything bad life throws at you. I don’t want to discourage you too much, make you believe the world is bad, evil as my mother did. I want you to be a warrior.
“Is that all, mom?”
“Yes. that’s the end. Good night.”
“Goodnight, mommy. Where’s dad?”
“He’ll be home soon and give you a kiss goodnight.”
I smile at you and send you off to bed. You skip towards your bedroom, feeling empowered of all the things I’ve told you. The sight of you makes me so happy. I sit there waiting for your dad to come home from the grocery store, curled on the couch, and think back to why I liked books and history so much. Then it hits me.
I felt overwhelmed with all that was raging inside me, wanting to compromise my needs, my desires, for my mother’s. I omitted the fact I battled fibromyalgia for half a decade of my youth. I omitted too how it took a while for me to trust your father.
After all the times men fucked up my life — my father, uncles, male cousins, the bullies at school, and the general male population who engage in upskirting or stealthing — I considered having you by AI, but your dad came into my life and changed that.
The front door opens and in walks your father, still handsome as the first day I met him. He says hello and I put a finger to my lips to shush him. He puts the groceries in the kitchen and tiptoes to your room. I put the groceries away and I realize that I’m the first woman in my family to live a decently normal life and still feel strong, like a warrior.
Jade Bald is a Canadian, a history graduate from Laurentian university, and rescue cat mom. She enjoys writing freelance, and has written articles for blogs such as Aroga Yoga, The Haven, and Creative Penn (among other blogs). She also enjoys walks, astrology, feminism, tea, and bloody good mysteries. You could connect with her via Twitter or Instagram.