It takes a village

March 18, 2012

 They say it takes a village to raise a child. I am a true example of this saying. My parents divorced when I was very young and as many children do I lived with my mother and visited my father. This left my mother in the difficult position of being a single parent. My mother took her role of being my parent seriously and raising me was the primary focus of her life for many years.

She has blessed me in unimaginable ways and I am every grateful and proud to have her as my mother. She was fortunate enough to be able to finish her Master’s Degree when I was young so that she had a good livelihood as a teacher in order to support the two of us as the years went by.

I know that the life of a single mom forced her to go above and beyond to ensure my happy childhood which she did willingly and without complaint. But as anyone who has lived the life of a single parent knows you must make sacrifices in order to support your family. One of those sacrifices would be your time with your children.

This is where the village comes in. I had a village of amazing women to support and love me and my mother throughout the years.

My grandmother, Elizabeth had retired as a teacher before I was born so she had the time available to spend with me. I was the only grandchild and my mother her only child. Spoiled? Definitely! But not spoiled rotten.

Most weekends my mother and I would spend at my grandmother’s house in Shelby. Over the years my grandmother showed me how to cook, can, sew, garden and do a number of household chores. Sadly many of these things have become a lost art by way of convenience. She made snapping the ends off of green beans fun along with a lot of other household tasks that would probably not normally be very exciting for a child. She was always making some sort of craft or project and sewed what probably would have been hundreds of quilts in her lifetime to bless others. I still use the one she made for me for my high school graduation. It seemed as if she never sat still and when she encountered things that needed to be done but she didn’t have the strength she made to do lists for the rest of us.

In her lifetime she had brain surgery twice to remove tumors but recovered and was blessed to be able to live at home up until her passing at 90 years of age. As I got older my grandmother was the one who I would call to talk about cooking stuff with, how much of this do I put in or how do I get this to thicken? She always knew.

My grandmother was a very wise woman who knew a lot about everything and shared her knowledge with me, whether I wanted it or not! There have been many times where I have needed her advice on something and while dialing the phone realized that she is no longer there. My heart hurts thinking back right now.

My grandmother had a sister named Kate. She was my great-aunt and although some called her Kate (which sounds too proper and dignified in my opinion) to me she was Aunt Katie. My grandmother and Aunt Katie were the only two children in their family growing up. Aunt Katie never had grandchildren so I became an “adopted” grandchild.

Aunt Katie was the spunky one of the two sisters. She had a twinkle in her eye and a big heart for people. As a kid I would go over to her house and they had a fish pond where I could go fishing and catch something in a blink of an eye. That’s about the only way I like to go fishing and was spoiled by the lack of effort I had to put forth in fishing.

The first home movie player resembled a record player and of course Aunt Katie had bought one so I got to see my first movie at her house. She was the candy maker of the family. I learned to make sea foam and toffee from her. Aunt Katie was always smiling and happy and I can remember as a child wanting to be just like her. I named my daughter after both my aunt and my grandmother. Kathryn Elizabeth. We call her Katie of course. I couldn’t think of a more fitting tribute than to name my only daughter after these two sisters who influenced my life so much.

My grandfather came from a much bigger family than my grandmother did. His little sister lived several blocks from my grandmother and was the last piece of the trifecta of awesome women who held up me and my mom throughout the years.

Aunt Ethel was an amazing cook! She made this bread that was awesome and I wish I knew how to make it now. Aunt Ethel’s grandkids lived outside of Chicago so she didn’t see them as much as she would have liked so I became another adopted grandchild. Aunt Ethel had a cottage on Lake Michigan and I remember many summers spent there either with my mom or with my cousins if they were visiting. After a long day on the beach (climbing dunes was hard work!) she would have snacks and drinks ready for us.

When I was 16 years old I had open heart surgery. I was having a hard time finding my appetite after the surgery and Aunt Ethel called to see what I wanted to eat. The only thing that sounded good was hot and sour soup from the Chinese restaurant in Ludington. I lived in Hesperia and Aunt Ethel lived in Shelby. They drove to Ludington to get the soup to bring to me in Hesperia. It must have been magical soup because I did start feeling better after that.

Aunt Ethel was the lady in the group who I could count on to speak her mind. I admired that about her. She had a strength about her that you don’t see in many people. She was most certainly a caregiver by nature. Her first husband contracted polio and her second husband ended up with Alzheimer’s. She cared for both men through all the trials that illnesses can bring and never complained.

These three women have all passed away now. There are times like today as I write this that my heart aches for the good old days where I had these special women in my life. Along with my mother these were the women who took care of me. I am so thankful for all that they taught me along the way. They showed me what character, faith, strength, and love are through their words and actions.

What falls on me now is that it is my turn to be the caliber of woman that they were. I must pass along my knowledge and character to my daughter and any other girls that come into my life in the years to come to help shape and mold them into remarkable women. It is not only my responsibility but my joy to pass along little pieces of my mother, grandmother, and aunts so that they may live on through me and be passed down to each new generation in some form.

On this Mother’s Day I reflect back on all the women who have impacted my life in one way or another. It is apparent to me that you don’t need to be a mother to make a difference in a child’s life you just need to be a part of the village.

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