When I was five years old, my mother and I boarded a plane to see my grandfather. Not long into the flight, we were detoured to another city, due to landing gear sticking. I vividly remember my mother being gracefully calm through the entire experience. I don’t think I worried, until the stewardess showed up with a brown paper bag, and asked my mother to remove all of her jewelry. Once my Mom removed her gold charm bracelet, I knew it was serious. She always wore it when traveling. When she tells the story, she notes that I never panicked until we were told that we may have to use the emergency slide to exit the plane. In such an event, I would have to go down the slide first, with my mother to follow. The thought of leaving the plane without her terrified me. A passenger who had been speaking with me, throughout the flight, assured me that he would wait at the bottom and my mother would be right behind me. In the end, everything was fine. The plane landed without incident, and we eventually boarded another plane, and continued on our way.
Stories like these are likely not all that uncommon, from the over-40 crowd. Every happening was not broadcast onto the nightly news, and the airline did not even blink. What stays with me is how my mother behaved through the entire event. She never even seemed worried to me. She was poised, confident, and comforting. Looking back, I’m sure that her only concern was keeping me calm. Even with the potential for disaster, I didn’t feel scared.
My mother has always seemed to approach negative things in that way, shielding others from it. Over the years, she has absorbed endless amounts of worry, discord, scandal, grief, and protected her loved ones from all of it that she could. It’s a measure of responsibility that I could not ever weigh. However, all of that strength also comes with an unintentional seclusion. People have always relied on her being strong, and making everyone else feel safe. So much so, that they tend to forget that she is taking on all of that burden herself. It’s almost too commonplace. My mother may be the strongest person I know, and may ever know. She is mother to not just her own children, but cousins, friends, extended relatives . . . almost everyone she meets.
In some ways, I am “my mother’s daughter.” I grieve mostly in silence, but I grieve. I weep alone, but I do weep. When I ask for help, few people notice, or I am told to “handle it (myself).” I think this predisposes women to be alone. Even if just emotionally.
It has been my experience that men do not usually wed emotionally strong women. They count on them, they need them, but they don’t typically marry them. My mother married in another era. One of hot rods, poodle skirts, saddle shoes, and wedding bells. She raised strong daughters, who she made certain went to college, and would never “need” to count on anyone else. She was successful. We (so far) have been able to survive fairly well on our own. The unforeseeable downside was that men tend to like women who need “saving.” Men are supposed to be strong. The knights on the galant horses. The heroes in the old love stories.
In 2017, women are supposed to be equal to men. Partnerships are supposed to be exactly that, a partnership. Women and men should be strong, they should be mutual contributors, there to support each other. My mother has always been ahead of her time, and she continues to be strong, for hopefully many, many, many years to come. Because you see, I don’t think I’m quite as strong as she is; and as independent and and strong as I am (thanks to her), I’m just quite as much as she is.