06.19.12 Truth & Wisdom
BY Anna Cox
I come from a long line of strong, caring women. This fact has shaped me far beyond my recognition, and I am endlessly grateful for that. The matriarchy that I fall under is something that I am proud of and have recently explored further. This group of women is not responsible for women’s suffrage or breaking the glass ceiling, rather creating the next generation of woman that would conquer the world in her own way. Each generation of woman in my family had a different life experience that created a unique role model in my life.
My great-grandmother was a survivor. She raised three children in rural Alabama during the Great Depression. When she was in her 40s, her husband died unexpectedly and she began working to provide for herself. She worked at a textile factory for 25 years until she could retire when she was in her 60s. Nothing seemed to come easily to her, but she lived a long and fruitful life, loving four generations of children. She was full of life until the day she died, and acted as a constant support for all of her “children,” ages 65 to two. My great-grandmother taught me to always roll with the punches, loving life no matter what it brings you, and loving all those in your life most of all.
My grandmother has been married to the same man for nearly sixty years. They are my role models for how to have a long and loving marriage. My grandmother grew up with next to nothing, but she and my grandfather have made a comfortable life for themselves, and while she enjoys the finer things in life, she is always aware of the less fortunate around her. She has been a Red Cross volunteer for decades, setting aside a day every week to work at the hospital. She is also a philanthropist in her community for many different causes. My grandmother may not have taught me what it means to be self-reliant—she never learned how to pump her own gas, and while at eighty-years-old she still gets around independently, she counts on my grandfather to fill her tank with gas every week. My grandmother may not necessarily exuded independence, but she has shown me how to be a caring and supportive wife and mother and a caring and supportive citizen to her community.
My mom has been the most influential person in my life. When I was little, I wanted nothing more than spending all my time next to her. I would occasionally feign sickness so I could stay home with her and we would watch soap operas and daytime talk shows. While this exuberance for my mother diminished in my teens, in my twenties, I have rediscovered all the reasons why my five-year-old self was so obsessed with my mom. She is my biggest cheerleader and a sound counselor. She has instilled so many lessons in me, most of which are lessons she learned from her mother and grandmother. My mom showed me how to be independent and self-reliant, qualities she gained from her grandmother, and the importance of giving back to those less fortunate, a value instilled in her my her mother. My mom also taught me how to establish relationships based on mutual respect of equals and she demonstrated to me how having a positive outlook on things can make life so much better.
I strive to exhibit all of these traits and hold closely all of the values that the women in my life exude in their lives. With each generation I hope that the women in my family are becoming wiser and stronger. While each woman in my family had drastically different upbringings and experiences, the next generation benefits from the diversity of those women’s experiences. Stories from my grandmother and great-grandmother about the Great Depression make me more appreciative for what I have. Stories my mom tells me about being a co-ed in the 1970s made me more cautious in my dating life when I went to college. Each woman I look to for guidance has a unique and eventful life that informs how I act as I go out into the world. I strive to one day be the next rung this beautiful ladder of matriarchs who teach their future generations how to live and love.
I believe that the women who are most influential to a young girl can deeply impact her life, and I am grateful for these numerous positive influences I have in my life. As I get older and reflect upon the lessons that the women in my life taught me, I think about what I want to teach my future daughters. What are the most important lessons you learned from the women in your life? What do you aspire to teach the next generation of women?
Featured image via the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest on Flickr