This post originally published on June 30, 2020.
Anything good I am and everything good I have done is because of my family.
I know how to be honest, strong and generous because I saw it in my mom, grandmothers and great-grandmothers. I know how to clean a cast iron pan, bait a fishing hook and tend a garden because I watched the women in my life do it from the time I was young. I love words, telling stories and recording my thoughts because it is in my blood.
I come from a long line of women who are nurturing and still firm; tough without being calloused; strong, fun, loving, capable and hardworking. I come from generations of women who have taught me everything I know.
I come from generations of women who have taught me everything I know.
As a little girl, I would often feel almost crushed by the weight of the love I felt toward my family—the adoration I felt toward my great-grandmothers who taught me to be tough, my grandmothers who gave me the world and my mother who showed me all the love a child could need. I felt far too young to be the vessel of such deep affection. I felt I was too unknowing to find words for how furiously I loved.
I was a child who heard often how loved she was, and I was sure that I was more wholly loved than any other little girl. The last words I heard before I fell asleep at night or got out of the car for school were always some form of “I love you.”
I love you. Do you have a jacket? Put on your seatbelt. Be careful. I believe in you. I’m praying for you. Do you need anything? I’ll see you tomorrow.
Something in me felt broken and led to despair when I thought of how loved I was. There was no way I could ever tell them how much I loved them and how much I needed them. I didn’t have the words.
So I write for my Grandmama, who has given me the stars in the sky and the colors of the sunset. Whose kindness and tenderness I draw from. Who gave me her affection for climbing trees, swinging, dragonflies and traveling. Who read us stories and made us dresses for ourselves and dolls. Who threw us tea parties. Who taught us to ride bikes, peel apples and jump into the pool. Who gave me more time and affection than I can begin to name.
I write for my Grandmama, who has given me the stars in the sky and the colors of the sunset.
I write for my Nana, who has given us the entire universe. Who allows people to hold her back and doesn’t blame them for it. Who dreams and does. Who gives and gives and gives some more. Who has never been surprised to see me standing in her kitchen. Who will back up her girls no matter what. Whose generosity is beyond us all. Who loves nothing more than time with her family. Who gave me my love for the mountains. Whose mark is her generosity.
I write for my Nana, who has given us the entire universe.
I write for my mom, who gave me not only life, but a life worth living. Whose temper and stubbornness I possess. Whose love I have flourished in. Who gave me words before I had any of my own. Who took care of me when I was sick, sad, anxious or lost. Who never leaves me wondering if she is proud of me, values me or wants to be near me. Who has given me her fierce strength and determined resolve. Whose beauty is transcendent. Whose affections are my foundation.
I write for my mom, who gave me not only life, but a life worth living.
To this day, I remain convinced that I am one of the luckiest humans on the planet. I grew up surrounded by women who made me resilient, honest and brave. They taught me the things a girl should know. They believed in me, cheered me on and loved me no matter what.
Through all of the ups and downs of my life, I never once wondered if I was going to be taken care of. I never wondered where my next meal would come from or if I would be left in need. I never once felt poor or like I was on my own. At every event, competition, concert, sports game or banquet, I could look out at the crowd and see them there—my cheering section. My family. My whole world.
I grew up knowing my heroes. I knew how to love from the love I had so deeply received. I had someone on my side at all times, even when I was wrong. I know how to be strong and still soft, tough but not harsh and how to forgive and keep going because they showed me how.
I grew up knowing my heroes.
Nothing in my life has held a candle to being a daughter, a granddaughter or great-granddaughter who knows how indescribably loved she is. I am who I am because of the mothers in my life who have allowed me to mess up, succeed, try and fail and return to their love every time.
Do you have mother figures in your life? What have they meant to you?
Image via Madeline Mullenbach