I don’t normally post on Saturdays, but since it’s International Women’s Day (well, when I started this post, it was), I figured, “Why the heck not?” and so here we are. (To be completely honest, I really just wanted to post for my Things I’m Loving bit because I found so many cool things that were so relevant to today, so I actually have nothing real planned out to write, so bear with me! Also check out everything below because they are super neat and awesome and inspirational and kick ass women doing things!)
I have to say that I was lucky growing up and being a girl. I mean, ridiculously, superbly, out of this world lucky. Of course, that’s not something I knew at the time and wasn’t until I left home and started talking to people and started expanding my reading and hearing people’s stories. But, I was. Starting off with my mother.
My mother was and is one of the most inspiring women I have ever known, which I know is a thing that everyone says about their mothers, but she really, really is. I don’t even know where to start, but really, one of the first things that sticks out in my mind is memories of watching her play basketball. I mean, my dad played hockey, but that was late at night and I really don’t remember seeing him play, but my mom running up and down the court with the ridiculous string to keep her glasses from falling off bouncing up and down as she ran is something I have a clear memory of. I watched this video over a year ago and sometimes it catches me at the most unexpected times and if I have anything to thank my mother for, it’s that she did not shrink, that she does not shrink. I’ve had classmates groan when they realized it would be my mother coming in to substitute for our class because, just like at home, she takes no crap. But, I’ve also been told, from those same classmates, that they respected my mom for those same qualities that made them want the day to hurry up and be over. She does not get pushed over and will tell you what she thinks if you continue to press her. She commands space and stands tall and she is what I think of when I think of ‘strength’.
If you’ve ever played a sport, you’ll know that it’s ridiculously hard to hear a crowd. Between the ball or the puck or the racing of your heart and the sound of your breath in your ears, the players on your team, on the other team, the squeaking of runners on the gym floor and your coach (who is also known to you as, “Papa.”) yelling from the sidelines as he chews on a piece of tape to try and temper his stress,”Put your hands up! How many times do I have to tell you? Don’t make me get the Hot n’ Icy out!”, you don’t hear the crowd. But I could always, always hear my mom. At every sport, even the ones (badminton) where the crowd is supposed to be quiet, you can hear my mom. My sisters and I used to joke about that. Every reaction, every cry of pride and every, “Oh shoot!” at the misses we made, we could hear her, loud and clear, between chasing kidlet brothers and helping man the canteen, you could always, always hear my mother.
The moments when my mother shows her insecurities always take me by surprise because how could a woman like her have insecurities? And then she lets slip, not often, just every once in awhile, how she could stand to lose a few pounds. Or how her clothes don’t flatter her. And then I wonder if she’s lonely and wishes she had more ‘girlfriends’. Or if she regrets giving up having her own teaching career to pack up and move, following jobs my dad would take to try and move up in the teaching world. If she wishes she had something else other than staying at home.
I asked her if she wished she had more than her teaching degree (my father’s walls are decorated) and she made this face she makes and shook her head, “No. Teaching was all I wanted to do and I’m alright with what I have,” and that’s when I learned that success looks different for everyone. That ‘being a stay at home mom’ is not a curse, it is not a failure, it is not, above all, easy. Between getting anywhere from four to six kids out the door everyday, doing laundry for various number of people (before we learned to do it ourselves, thankyouverymuch), lunch, bills, groceries, post office, preparing lunch if one of made the, “I completely forgot we had SRC/a meeting/(insert forgotten thing here) so can you bring me a lunch, please?,” phone call home, weekend cleaning (during which there is inevitably one argument of, “But I did that last week! Why do I have to do it again this week?” or, “I’ll do it as soon as I’m done this!” that each of my siblings and I have, without a doubt, had with her). Then there’s the volunteering. How she’s coached our various basketball/volleyball teams, volunteered to drive if she’s not, the subbing she does, the time she worked for several years at a lumber yard and absolutely loved it.
From her, I knew, never mind learned, knew I could do anything I wanted. That there would be hard work and failures involved, that things are not always easy and that not everyone will like you, but that she raised me tough and that yes, even if it seems scary and like you’re never going to get there, you can do it. I can play sports. I can wear boys clothes. I can have short hair. I can read and read and read. I can be terrible at math, but only as long as I tried my best. I can travel. I can be interested in whatever I find interesting and captivating and stimulating. I can also cry and be sad and hurt and angry and shout and punch and kick. I can apologize. I can be humble. I can be proud of things I’ve accomplished. I can have fears and insecurities.
I remember crawling up the stairs one night, I don’t even remember when it was, and hearing my mom cry. That’s not something I hear very often and was of course worried but didn’t know what, if anything, I should do. Then I heard my father’s lower voice answer and crawled up further, carefully nudged the door and poked an ear out. Both of my mother’s parents suffered from memory illnesses as they got older. Grandpère from Alzheimer’s, Grandmère from dementia and it was painful to watch as these strong, talented, master storytellers, musicians, strong (my mother had to get it from somewhere) people fade, slowly and year by year, face by face, away. “I find myself forgetting simple things and what if I have it?” I heard my mom cry, my father’s quiet rumble reassuring her from across the kitchen table. Of course, I got that squicky, panicy feeling of, “What if I have it?” and then made my way back down the stairs.
There are so many things I can and feel I should say about my mother, but I’ve already said so much and I do want to make this a readable length for you all, but I am lucky. Even though we never ‘did’ feminism in our house, my mother embodies it pretty darn well. (I should add: my father as well. I’ll write that post another day.) While I don’t know what my future looks like, what I’ll be doing or where I’ll be, I know that, as I continue forward and growing and working things out, I want to be like my mother. As giving and selfless and strong and amazing and talented and human and #winning as she is.
Things I’m Loving: (International Women’s Day Edition)
+ Google’s Doodle was ah-ma-zing
+ Celebrating women who travel
+ Biographies of over 100 female journalists & non-fiction writers
+ Iconic women in music
+ Adorable ‘We can do it!’ doodle
+ Female characters to look up to: part 1 part 2 part 3
+ Strong space ladies
+ Good advice
+ My favourite female athlete
+ This video from Covergirl is flawless
2 thoughts on “International Women’s Day (Also: The Story of My Mother)”
I think you just made me “misty”. Merci for those words. I don’t think I’m quite all those things, but thank you for thinking that.
Don’t worry about growing up to be like me…you grow up to be the best YOU you can be & that will make me (us) very proud.
T’aime beaucoup ma chère:-)
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