Monday, December 27, 2010

on women who are awesome

This is my mom. Last week she put on some robes (she ironed them first) and fancy cords that indicate her smartness (can anyone pronounce magna cum laude?), and she marched across a stage and shook the appropriate hands and accepted the ceremonial folder and beamed her way down the ramp and back to her seat. Her seat happened to be between two very tall young men who could have been her children. Come to think of it, most of her classes have also had her sitting between people who could have been her children. In fact, these past few years she attended the same college as her youngest children, and at the same time.

My mom is now one of a not-so-long history of women who have made it into and through the rigors of higher education and come out with a bachelor's degree (such a funny name for a degree, such a holdover from earlier days). She has done her homework and written her papers and studied for exams between full-time jobs (the job that she drove to, which brought in a pay check, and the job of keeping a home, which did not), cooking fabulous meals, caring for young adult children, serving at her church, and keeping up with her family. She has highlighted lecture notes and wrapped birthday gifts and prepared I-can't-even-imagine-how-many Sunday roasts. She has cared for her mother, and lost her mother, and forged ahead, forged ahead through numerous crises and challenges among family and friends, stuck with it, and--thirty years after she started taking classes, and after the long pause that my own birth began, and after many years of one- or two-class semesters, she has achieved her degree. And now she is applying for graduate programs.

I am this woman's daughter. Her feminism wasn't loud and angry (and she wouldn't have even called it feminism, especially not in her fundamentalist Christian context), but a quiet assumption of the implicit value and intelligence of little girls as well as little boys (even when, as in my case, the little girls' brothers scored higher in the IQ tests!). Her devotion to education wasn't pushy or pressuring, never about checking our homework or agonizing over grades, but it manifested in frequent trips to the public library, limited television time, support for creative endeavors, and insistence on keeping us in good schools. She poured herself out for her children and husband, teaching and coaching and encouraging us all. And when the time came, she returned to school herself, delighting in her sharpened number two pencils and her notebook paper. My mom is a learner as well as a teacher, and this has made me a learner, has formed a great deal of who I am.

She graduated With Great Honor last week, but I just have to say: getting to call this particular woman Mom, it seems somehow that the honor is all mine.


  1. And I have no doubt that she is insanely proud of YOU.

    Many many congrats to your mom. She really is awesome.

  2. What a wonderful tribute! I have no doubt your mom is a very special woman... based on the beautiful daughter she raised.