I’m thinking about the women in my bloodline tonight, women I loved, often disagreed with and unfairly judged. I’m thinking about my mother having five children because there was no birth control and how her dreams of personal fulfillment were dashed by that responsibility. I’m thinking about the talk we had one evening in the back of the restaurant, as I followed her from the kitchen, her tiny high heeled shoes tracking grease along the dining room floor. We sat together, her hands overflowing with end-of-the-day receipts, black curls stuck to her forehead from the heat of an industrial stove. “I don’t want this life for you,” she said. “Be something better. Be something more. Get out of this small town. Go far away.”
I listened to my mother’s lament and left my rooted place. In fact, I traveled as far as I could without falling into the sea. I made a life 3,000 miles away, a life I think she’d be proud of, although she never understood it during her lifetime, the words, psychic, healer and artist falling dangerously far from accepted norms. She needed familiar occupations, like doctor, lawyer or business owner, titles to give her bragging rights with friends as they gossiped about their children over glasses of evening wine.
Her words and desires dance in memory, as I look into her life and the lives of those before her, acknowledging that I stood on the back of her broken dreams to make my own. I think of my mother’s mother, Ada, and my father’s mother, Lottie, and their mothers before them, and their mothers as far back as I can imagine. I try to sense their radiance and gifts, ambitions, sorrows and longings as a river of light, each life flowing into and through my own, each person’s existence a kind of sacrifice for the next and the next and the next, each new foundation an expression of hope.