When my daughter Jane was ten and carrying on about the latest Hollywood sensations, John pulled a face at her taste. “Well, who do you think is pretty?” she demanded.
“You. Your mother. My mother, my granny, my sister,” he replied. Out of all the brilliant things John has said, that was one of the most brilliant.
That was years ago, but this morning I awoke thinking about how our society makes heroes out of quite and very unheroic women, at least as compared to those near and dear to me. What, I wondered, would I say to anyone asking me, not who was pretty, but who was beautiful, heroic, worthy of praise and emulation in my life?
“My mother, my grandmother, my mother-in-law, my sisters-in-law, my friends, my daughters, daughter-in-law, and granddaughters.”
I remember my dad talking about my grandmother chasing a poisonous snake who was trying to escape under their house. “You’ll not get near these children,” she shouted as she brought a garden hoe down on it, severing it’s head. When I was little she used to put The Happy Goodmans on to play for me. She deftly peeled what may have been the world’s best tomatoes (grown in her weedless garden) with her ever sharp paring knife, sliced them into thick, fat, juicy slices and served them to me with salt. One day, I vowed, I would do that for someone.
But how would I ever emulate my mom? I’ll never be as strong as she is was my silent concern. She never stopped moving except maybe once on “slow” days for a cup of coffee and a Lucky Strike. She was up before us to put a fantastic breakfast (a platter full of meat, eggs, biscuits, gravy) on the table, to starch our jeans, and then off (for the second time) to her many-thousand chickens. She was up waiting when I got home from basketball games (once it was 2:00 a.m. and there she stood, leaning on the kitchen counter for support, smoking her Lucky Strike). She didn’t say “I love you” she did love.
And then there’s my mother-in-law who taught my manly man husband to cook, can, sew, clean, iron, and to always be clean, neat, and presentable. So when our youngest, Seth, was born, John brought the older three to the hospital looking like little dolls. The nurses went on about it. “Who dressed those kids?” one asked. I was bewildered. Who do you think?
“John did,” I told her. “Well, I never!” she said. “Just look at them. All spit and polish!” And so I looked. Their clothes were ironed, Benjamin’s hair parted perfectly, the girls’ hair curled, their eyes shining. In other words, looking like kids should look when they’re coming to see their new sibling and their mother. Did other dads bring the kids to see mom looking any other way? Evidently. Talk about dumb as a post.
And who was to thank for that? My mother-in-law. Well, and John being smarter than a post.
And then there are my sisters-in-law (brothers’ wives) who stayed with my brothers through thick and thin, who are excellent mothers, citizens, and friends. As for John’s sister, even when her life was falling COMPLETELY apart, she was fun, kind, and positive. How many women “leaders” can say that? These sisters of mine! All of them are absolutely indispensable to the welfare of all of us blessed by their presences in our lives. I really could never say enough about any of them.
I won’t even start with my friends, except to say that my dad was right when he said to me years ago, “Bev, you’ve always had truly good friends.” Indeed I have. They have filled gaps, dried tears, inspired, listened, commiserated, advised, and loved me through some pretty dark days. Real women, that’s what they are.
And then there are my daughters, daughter-in-law, and granddaughters. Let me just say right here that there aren’t a handful of movie stars in history as lovely as these young women, as brilliant, funny, kind, or true.
I’ve said all this to say that we might stop taking note of celebrities who we’ll most likely never even meet, and start celebrating those women near and dear.