When I think about who I want my models to be, I go to my girlfriends. I go to my sisters. I go to my mother. I think about all the strong women who help me through every single day. Who did it before me. The different styles we choose to embrace all the needs that we have to satisfy. I remember that it's always been my friends who have brought out my best self.
I found out last night via Facebook that a high-school classmate of mine died. I'm not sure if I'd call her my friend, as I haven't seen her in over twenty years. We were in the small ensemble play, Steel Magnolias together when I was a junior and she was a senior. We played Annelle and Trudy, respectively. We shared every scene. We became friends. She was sophisticated and cool, had older boyfriends, wore meticulous make-up and had an amazingly womanly body. I was goofy, twitchy, cheerful cheer-leading me at seventeen. The rest of the cast was as motley as the two of us. But this lovely relationship developed between all of us. Women, when put together, have an amazing capacity to bond. To find their shared truths.
So I sit here this morning thinking about all I have to be grateful for. I think about the community of friends that I've developed over the past decade in this mountain town. How we've shared weddings. Births and more births. Adventures with tents and skis and hot springs and trails. All sorts of things I never imaged at seventeen.
I think about my sisters. How different we all are. How deep the love flows. How much I've emulated and admired every single one of them my whole life. Five sisters. How's that for a blessing.
I think about my mom. How hard she worked to give us everything all the time. Her intelligence. Her uniqueness. Her wit. The way she paved a path so staunchly her own. In a new country. With two young girls. Then two more. Amidst a cacophony of adolescents she'd just met, with a man she perhaps never intended to marry. Tremendous.
The way I watch my mother-in-law greet her husband with love every single morning. Kiss his bald head. Love him wholly. Even after he's just peed in the sink. Buttoned and unbuttoned his coat incessantly. Folded and unfolded the throw rug. Asked the same question again and again. I'm sure she never imaged their fifteen year age difference would come to this.
I think about my husband. How hard he works. How intense and sharp his mind is. How he wants to fix everything. How much he's taught me about the world. Opened me up in ways I never imagined.
And my own babies. Eliana and her words. Her intensity. Her huge brain and articulate self. I'm so proud of the way she speaks to other people. How she addresses people by their name. Her astute observations. Her eyes. Her hair.
Solomon and his monkey body. The way he moves with such confidence. His monkey arms around me in the middle of the night. He's hard head against my chest. His words. Alright! Toast? RoRo? Mommeee.
So here I am, full of love. The snow has melted and the brown leaves are back, covering the grass in the yard. The red berries on the ash mix with the toasted leaves. They are still and lazy. They are totally content with their place in it all.
I started this post with a need for poetry. For words. Here's a gift:
Under the orange
sticks of the sun
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again
and fasten themselves to the high branches ---
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands
of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails
for hours, your imagination
And if your spirit
carries within it
that is heavier than lead ---
if it's all you can do
to keep on trudging ---
there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted ---
each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.
from Dream Work (1986) by Mary Oliver
Thank you friends, sisters, mamas, husbands, children for daring us to be happy. Thank you for these thirty seven blessed years.
There were times when I wasn't sure it was all going to go as well as it did. Never dreamed it would go so well.
Let's go with grace. Savor each moment. Stop trying so hard. Be here now.