For those who are interested, this story begins here: #Women of Wisdom – The Story of My Mother |Part One.
My mother was a beautiful woman. That is evidenced by the attraction of my Dad, who was a good looking man, if I do say so myself.
When we use the word “beautiful” it sometimes helps to qualify it by explaining what we mean. To the general public, and I suppose that many readers of this blog fit in that group, the word beautiful denotes tall, slender, blue eyed, blonde, perhaps… the vision of a popular model from any fashion magazine. It is sadly what we, in America, have come to equate with the word beautiful.
To me, this word has a deeper meaning. There is the superficial – and within that, the concept of beauty can vary- there are beautiful people in all walks of life; men, women and children of all colors, and all sizes – not just what Americans say is beautiful or attractive; it’s a certain way we smile, a certain way our face is constructed, a certain way we carry ourselves… the society of man is intent upon labeling human beings as either ugly or beautiful, accordingly.
Let me repeat, my mother was a beautiful woman. I do not add “in her youth” as she is 84 now and just as beautiful. I do not add “as a child” for surely she must have carried her beauty from birth, and I have no pictures of her as a child to refute my claim. I merely say, my mother was a beautiful woman…and use it as my introduction to this chapter in this story.
Know that this is a story. Know that it is my story, about my mother. It is not my mother’s story. It is as real as memory can make it.
I did not recognize my mother’s beauty, as a child. She was… my mother. I did not see the beauty that was my mother as a young woman… beauty that was captured in her blue eyes, yes, but beauty that shone in her desire to be more than just a pretty face, if you will. I only saw a woman who often struggled to achieve her dreams. I caught glimpses of a woman who achieved what others could not- running her own business, in her own name, and this after having been divorced in the 1950s!
I lived with this beautiful woman for 19 years, and yet, I do not think I ever saw her, or her beauty.
We were not friends. At times, she reached out to be my friend, but I was a sad child, lost in a world of make believe, and I only saw her reaching fingers in a blur of images I refused to actually “see”. In my distrust of the world as it was, I also distrusted my mother. She was not part of my make believe world…and therefore, the blur of her presence in my life was not worth my time. Yes, I wonder now what might have happened if I’d accepted that offer of friendship.
My mother and I occupied the same space, in the home. She worked, and I took care of things. She came home, and I faded into the background. I seldom cared how her day went. I never asked. I don’t remember if she asked about my day.
It’s in growing up, finally, that we at last recognize the choices we have in life. I grew up, at long last, and moved out, and began to assess my world differently. As I tell people today, I was never a good employee, and the entrepreneur in me began to blossom over time. I was too shy to allow it out early on, as some successful women do. I must have learned some of what I know, and what I desired, from my mother. It was she who was the wage earner and who ran both house and store (small corner grocery, for those who did not read Part One of this story). It was she who had a head for figures – she could add a long column of numbers in her head, a feat that amazes me to this day! It was she who aspired to bigger and better things – oh, not fancy cars and big houses, but a homey place to live, a color TV, a vacation once a year. Small things that we take for granted today.
Of late, now that I am fully grown (a task that only took about 60 years), I do remember how beautiful my mother was. I do remember her laughter, and her sparkle. I am putting aside the unfocused memories and bringing forth clearer memories; just a few that I can recall where we were out in public. We were at parties or New Year’s Eve celebrations, or weddings, together. And I see my mother as I never knew her. I see her as a woman of beauty who surrounded herself with friends. I see her as a woman of accomplishment who decided to do this or that, and then went out and did it. I see her as a human being in need of love and laughter, and yes, acceptance.
Perhaps I will never know what drove my mother to decide to run her own business, in a world that frowned upon such things. I know she was an entrepreneur, and like me, she was eager to be her own person, run her own life, not bow down to the rules of a ‘boss’ who knew half as much about the business as she did. Yes, in later years, after selling the store and losing my Dad to cancer (well, my step-Dad, but that’s another story altogether), she became an employee…and was very good at her job. But, it wasn’t really her. At that point, she was creating a means to an end.
When I say my mother was a beautiful woman, I do imagine her as a girl – flashing hair with reddish tint, blue eyes with a come-hither look, and a smile that melted many hearts. But, beyond that… I think of the girl who played basketball (I am not sports inclined at all!), the girl who shared a bed with two sisters, who lived in a small house overflowing with kids (the story is, my grandmother was always pregnant… there were 13 children born, though not all lived)…and who dreamed of a world beyond… a life beyond. I imagine her looking at rainbows and deciding to find out what is really at the end of them…
At the end of her rainbow was a marriage that didn’t last, three small girls to care for…and a life that mimicked what she’d left behind.
It’s no wonder she worked hard and at last took charge of her life by opening that grocery store. The beautiful woman who was (and is) my mother charmed customers as they frequented the store, and never knew how powerful she really was.