Celebrating Women Who Shaped Us
It is Mother’s Day 2021. This is a day set aside to honor our mothers.
The origin of Mother’s Day dates back to the early 1900’s. A woman, Anna Jarvis, had recently lost her mom. Her mother was an activist who enlisted the help of other women to do things for the betterment of the world. These women tended to wound soldiers on both sides of the Civil War. She worked towards peace for all.
Anna wanted to celebrate not only her mother, but mothers across the state and later the nation who sacrifice for their children every day. She pushed for a national holiday to celebrate.
In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson would sign the proclamation to make the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
Commercialism soon took over which was discouraging to Anna. Retailers saw this as a quick way to capitalize on this new holiday. From flowers to cards and candy, Mother’s Day became a way to make a quick buck and took away from the whole point of the holiday: to celebrate the personal, individual connection between a mother and her children.
So, here we are in 2021. I believe many of us are as discouraged about the constant barrage of consumerism that has taken place across the board for all holidays. We want to get back to what is important. Taking time to celebrate the women in our lives who have helped raise us and shape us.
With the onset of the Industrial Revolution came something else. The ability to move away from the place we called home. “Back in the day” families lived relatively close to one another.
This was true for me up until adulthood. I grew up just miles (or yards) from aunts, uncles and cousins galore. My grandparents on both sides lived within a fifteen to twenty minute drive from us. Our lives were shaped by being around them for holidays, celebrations, and just plain visiting.
My Grammy Pierpont (Sara) was probably my favorite grandma. She was the epitome of grandmothers of the time, always wearing a bib apron over her dress with her black sensible shoes that had a small heel on them. She was short and plump…. Think “Mrs. Claus” if that helps… except her hair was not snowy white. She was warm and loving, spending oodles of time in the kitchen on holidays along with my aunts. Her sister, my great Aunt Edna, was often there as well. Aunt Edna was the polar opposite of Grammy in shape. She was also different because she never married and had children while Sara had five children (and 18 grandchildren).
We visited Aunt Edna at her home in Hartford where she lived on the second (I think… maybe the 3rd) floor of an old walk up apartment building. I can remember the thick handrails and wooden steps going to her modest one bedroom apartment. She lived exceptionally frugal, never really splurging on anything. All my cousins adored her.
With cousins as playmates, some of my aunts were also second mothers to us just as my mom was to them. If you were at a cousins’ house, then the aunt was the one in charge of making sure you stayed out of trouble while you were there (of course, I don’t think any of us made it difficult for one of them to take care of us). So, aunts were prevalent in our lives as well.
The aunt that lived closest was my Aunt Babs, wife of my mom’s oldest brother. They had five children – we had five children. The two youngest ones were in close age to me and the two brothers close in age to me, Chuck and Edd. My fondest memory of my Aunt Babs was when she would take us to work with her when she was on duty at the fire towers. These were like very tall treehouses perched in the middle of the woods where the person on duty kept a watchful eye in the distance to see if any smoke cropped up. If they spotted something, they could radio the general vicinity to local authorities who would then get out and fight the fire. I honestly do not remember that ever happening while we were there with her, but I am sure she must have spotted one from time to time. To reach the top (where the ‘hut’ was), you had to climb a very steep metal staircase!
The next closest was my Aunt Vi, my mother’s youngest sister. Aunt Vi was our piano teacher, all five of us took lessons at one time or another. Once a year she would hold a recital in her living room where we could showcase what we had learned. I don’t remember playing at them, but I do remember what her living room looked like when she did these! I hated the metronome that she kept on the piano which was to help us keep proper tempo. Made me nervous! Aunt Vi was always good for a laugh. When she was older, she worked for Planned Parenthood and could regal us with humorous tales of what went on in the office (never breaking HIPPA rules, of course). Nothing fazed her, not even when our beloved Uncle Tony had a stroke and required extra care.
Next was Aunt Trudy, wife of mom’s younger brother. We were never really close to her even though her three children were in close age to myself and my two brothers. She had an air about her that made her seem ‘offput’. Biggest memory of her was her hairstyle and her bright red lipstick and eye makeup. I never say her with a hair out of place or without her makeup. Not that she wasn’t nice – she just wasn’t someone you got close to.
Mom’s oldest sister, my Aunt Alice (Alie) lived in Arizona but we did see her from time to time. She was so much fun, always ready for a game or a joke. When I think back on her, I can see my grammy’s face on Aunt Alie. She moved slowly and talked with a southern drawl after spending so many years in Arizona. She never had a cross word, always a pleasant and fun demeanor.
Of course, my mom was also a huge influence in my life. Her arms would wrap around me if I fell down when I was little. She kept the door to the house open for any and all visitors. She made mothering look easy, never flustered at whatever came her way. She loved people and animals alike. Dedicated to her children, she was a Den Mother and a Girl Scout Leader – even beyond the years when we lived at home. She loved people, talking to them when any opportunity arose. She was loved by so many around town. She taught me the importance of giving back to the community, something I still do today.
My sister became my champion as I grew older. Over the course of the past decade we share nearly everything about each other, finding comfort in the fact that we are not judged in our lives, finding solace in the fact we can confide our innermost thoughts.
Once I moved away from my home state, I built a circle of other strong, like-minded women. While men may have only one or two best friends, I think women seem to have more. From my stitch-in-bitch church friends (pardon the ‘french’ LOL) we truly support one another even when not close by. During college I formed some very close friendships with my roommates and even now, some 40 years later, we still enjoy any time that we get to spend together.
Women helping women, doing for women, has a long tradition. While one day a year is set aside to officially recognize the women who shaped us, I truly believe we should celebrate them all year round. Take time out periodically and call on someone who shaped your life. Make sure they know how much you appreciate them. And do not be surprised if you are the recipient of a call or a letter. Do it today – because you may not always have tomorrow!