The Ones Who Shaped Me
Butterflies, ice cream, cards, fitted sheets and the smell of hand soap and clams. These are the instances of firsts when reflecting on the ones that brought character and pain into my life. The women who decided, or by some sort of divine intervention, they were going to tell me who I should be.
For the sweet birth of ice cream my mother. The one who loves me unconditionally and imperfectly. Her love of creamy sensations has led to many discussions of life. It has been hope as well as been a been a band-aid for pain. No life happenstance has ever not been solved without peanut butter chocolate or peppermint twist. As we ebbed and flowed in our development to my adulthood, she taught me work ethic. She typed out my first attempt at publishing at age 7 as I watched her correct the Sunday times with red ink. Her career came first by necessity. While others were baking bread, she was leading a board meeting. She taught me all things are possible with hard work and determination for any woman who is brave enough.
Ice cream means love and so does playing cards. Especially ones from casinos with the corners cut off. This is grandma Bill. Yes, Bill to her friends and Helen on her birth certificate. A woman of weak lungs not meant to last past 6 years old but gifted with incredible insight. She taught me how to think outside of the box while having a wicked shuffle. As her body was kept alive by oxygen, she invigorated me to pursue my dreams over solitaire at a modest kitchen table. Though only in my life for 16 years she bestowed enough wisdom to last a lifetime. She taught me strength is not in the physical but in attitude.
No one likes to fold a fitted sheet, and those that do are suspect. Like the one who taught me to hate, to doubt and to cry. The one who went from neighbor to stepmother. Who hid food when I came to visit and who brought tears to my eyes when she negatively screamed how much I looked like my mother? Her insecurities fostered mine and caused me to doubt. She did not disappoint when my father passed and made life a living hell. She taught me patience through grief and forgiveness. She taught me that not everyone is happy, but I can choose who is in my life and how to treat people better through her negative example.
Through the eclecticism of personalities was the love and direction of my grandma Peg. Strained relationships were her mantra, but with me it was teaching and caring. As a child I learned to wash my hands and organize anything. She was the poster child for OCD before it was defined. Throughout years we spent many hours combing the various beaches of the Pacific Northwest searching for clams in the early tides while looking for stones to paint faces on. Her fastidious nature taught me the finer things in life and self-control through creativity.
Blue butterflies equal Duchess. The name was an inside joke and as I remember I hear her unique infectious laugh. She chose to be my foster mother in a time of life at 16 when I was lost. She taught me to laugh, to see family as something else that had been modeled and what being a nurturing mother was. She built me back up and filled in the gaps the others somehow missed. She taught me that not all mothers in your life have the same blood flowing as you. That being a mom is about being present and being accepting. She taught me how to be a better mother to my children by accepting them for who they are, not molding them into what I want.
I could not and would not be who I am without these complicated women. The word appreciative was not always the descriptor. But seasons have defined it. The depression of what ifs have in the past overwhelmed me, but the energy is pointless. It is unimaginable to picture life without them. I think of them when I am at my best. And through my worst I gain strength, as they combined self-fortitude with humanism. I smile when I see a child giggle over ice cream and ponder the other side of an opinion when I hear the shuffling of cards. I’ve taught others to fold a fitted sheet and they are thankful, while remembering that no matter what you can learn something from every experience. While I am complimented for my organizational skills, the smell of hand soap lingers, and I hear distant waves crashing on the shore as seagulls squawk and feel a sense of peace. And when I see a blue butterfly, I hear an infectious laugh that lifts my spirits no matter what life has thrown in front of me. I am shaped by the women who came before me and their spirit lives on as I shape those who come after. In the twist of time I ponder the descriptors to be assigned to me and hope the lessons of imperfect love live on.