Family stuff is prompting me to write that post about the women in my family to balance the one about some of the men. My friends usually meet my family (en masse, no one ever meets one or two people) and come away saying something like, “Now I know why you are the way you are.” Those might be my favorite words ever, because goodness, my family is full of cool people, and if I’m like them, I’m a happy girl.
My two grandmothers are both survivors. Being one of the older grandchildren, and the only girl for a really long time, means that I’ve probably gleaned more information than the other kids. I know that leaving Cuba wasn’t something they were particularly excited about. I know that sometimes marriage stifled ambitions for them. I know that even though they’re a little batty now, they still aren’t to be trifled with…because they survived hell to get where they are. But before they survived revolution, raising children in a strange place, sickness, and poverty, they survived being women in a time and culture where they might as well have been possessions. One of them had a horrendous childhood, horrendous like the stuff movies are made of, horrendous in ways that have me tearing up even now as I write this…and somehow she finds happiness in life. One of them thought the idea of allowing her gender to control her actions was monumentally stupid, so she didn’t conform. She did other things. Went to school, joined her brothers in a revolution, eventually found a husband (at the then ridiculous age of 27 or 28). She did things the way she wanted to do them. Their lives were hard, probably with more lows than highs, and yet, they are sources of inspiration for me. Paying off my credit cards sucks, but it sucks less than searching mountains for wounded soldiers. Being unemployed was probably, to date, the lowest low I’ve ever had, and yet, I’ve never had any kind of debilitating illness while raising three kids, so how can I dwell on a crappy 8 months?
On the surface, I’m not much like my mother. She’s better at tact, controlling her emotions, and finding the positive in a situation. But our similarities lie deeper. We’re loving, compassionate, generous, and hard workers. Because of those similarities, we can have impressive fights. Goodness knows we have had impressive fights. Her one desire in life was to have children. She knew she was cut out to be a mom. Usually this is the kind of life goal that has me rolling my eyes, but sometimes someone just knows what they’re perfectly cut out for, and that’s her. If I could be a fraction of the mother she is, I would be a happy woman. There are other things to admire. She’s made a fantastic name for herself in her industry, which she originally fell into while looking for a job that would allow her to be home when we got home from school. She’s a good wife, friend, and person. But I think one of the reasons I’m so careful about wanting kids is because I’ve seen what raising them well looks like, and I don’t want to do it any other way.
My aunts are all different and I’ve gotten different things from each of them. My love of learning, my fashion sense, my superior shopping skills, my bullshit radar, the list goes long. I have a lot of aunts. They’ve all added a little something to this pot of soup, which is probably why I’m so spicy sometimes, oops.
All this to say that generations of people have sacrificed, suffered, and pushed just so I could do better. So that my brothers and cousins could do better. And when I see some of us making terrible life choices, I can hardly stomach it. Because choosing poorly after so many people chose correctly is pure disrespect. If you can’t choose correctly for yourself, then choose for your parents or grandparents. Or for your own kids. If you can’t do that, I’m not even sure I want to know you.