It was a Tuesday. the weather was warm, the season was almost summer. it was California. i was fifty-one years old. I layed down – closed my eyes and exhaled. that’s when it happened…
i saw their faces as they passed through my torn but opening heart – the women of my ancestral tribe – lots of them. redheads, blondes, brunettes. irish and italian. lovers, sexy and wild. dancers, mothers, discarded, scorned, strong, courageous, drunk, fierce. The women I come from – pieces to a tapestry I’ve been trying to fit together. their wind blew threw me. they came rushing forward, one after another, faces and screams and laughter and electricity, their faces blowing through me long enough to whisper their stories …
she had to marry her first lover while still a girl. he cut tobacco in the south and traveled up the northern coast. he met her at her mother’s boarding house. Her mother caught them having sex….the end of her girlhood. They married. She had six children, raised them in a house with a dirt floor with a husband stingy with his time and attention, and when she found a lump under her arm she kept her ticket out a secret. i am her granddaughter.
she traveled from a small northern town in Italy, across the world, when she was eight years old and would spend her life in service to people living with mental illness. she loved a dinner table full of people – family and strays alike. she had an odd array of characters sitting at her table, mostly ill, mostly quiet, mostly alone but she always made them feel they were ‘home’. i am her niece.
she married an alcoholic who beat her so many times she lived and died in an institution – nobody knew when she died or which institution. i am her niece.
she lived in Connecticut and had a swanky lifestyle – back when people had things like that. she drank too much and pissed people off. her two daughters were nuns until they both defected at different transitions in their lives. one married, had children, was a ballerina and later a dance teacher, a delicate and beautiful woman. the other moved to Ecuador and for several decades has been writing and teaching in a small village, accompanied by her husband of even more decades. i am her great niece.
she had five children she couldn’t take care of. She liked to drink and smoke and have sex. she suffers from madness. one of her children hung himself. some say she was raped as a young girl, some say she was wild and wanting. she talks about god mostly. i am her niece.
she married a controlling, prejudice, intolerant man who treated her like property. she had three daughters, cooked, cleaned, and worked. she faced and survived breast cancer in her 70’s. i look like her and i am her niece.
she left home at seventeen to escape abuse. she married at eighteen and had children she didn’t want. she loves to dance. she drinks to ease the pain. she suffers from madness. when she was young she had the body of a goddess and the swag of an outlaw. she moved her family from town to town in search of something she would never talk about. i am her daughter.
she had an affair while married and because of it, her husband killed himself. i am her great granddaughter.
she traveled across the world on a boat with three children. she cleaned houses to survive. she spoke only a bit of English. she outlived one son who died in combat. life made her tough but she loved deeply. i am her granddaughter.
I spent a lifetime running from the story i believed these women wrote for me. lately i’m not running. lately i’m falling in love with the story itself. it’s a magnificent tale of adventure, hardship, badass-ness, loss, sex, madness and love. and i am that.
*this song was playing in the background……