Welcome, Mamma Crew, to another chaotic, exciting, but always beautiful day of an older mom like you!
I hope you had a great mother’s day and you’re enjoying your month—mother’s day month, mother’s month? I don’t know. You should be celebrating the entire month, and that’s all I know! So, since this month is about mothers, I wanted to share with you the women that had the biggest impact on my life as mothers. Because let’s face it, there’s no more important woman in our life than mom, whether our mom was a good mother or the worse mother ever! She marked us. But she wasn’t the only mother that did that. Other mothers contributed to our mothering definition. So in this episode, I really want to talk about the women that helped develop my mothering definition and ability without even knowing that they were influencing me. Or maybe they did know. Both of these ladies are wise. Wiser than I even feel now.
So, let’s start with my favorite. My paternal grandmother, her name was Ava. This woman was always happy. I never saw my grandmother Ava in a bad mood. I never ever saw her say she was sad. She always had a ready smile on her face. That’s not me. I wish it was! I really, really, really wish it was. I take after her; I look just like her. And she desperately wanted my mother to name me after her. I was her first grandchild. But my mother refused.
But the one thing I learned from my grandmother Ava was that affection was important, to express it, hug, and love my children all of the time. She was my Abuelita, my grandmother, and I loved her. I loved her so much. I loved dearly. And all of my memories of her are fun ones.
The other wonderful thing that I learned about my grandmother Ava was to over-love my children. Now she had three daughters, and she didn’t have a lot of money because, in total, I think she had like thirteen children. I remember being a girl and begging to go shopping with her. My grandmother was a shopper extraordinaire. I mean, this woman knew where every single sale, every single deal was! She would take the bus, and it was like a fifteen, twenty-minute bus ride to downtown where she lived, and she would go from shop to shop to get the best deal possible. So, although she didn’t have access to many resources, her three daughters always looked fabulous. She always made sure that they dressed impeccably and that they had the best she could provide for them.
And oh my goodness, my uncles, you can’t just forget about that. The woman even iron their underwear! Now I have to admit that I’m a little crazy with the iron. I love that iron, and it probably comes from my grandmother Ava. I can’t tell you how much time I spent with her, talking to her while she ironed away—the shirts, the pants, the jeans, the underwear. She wanted her children to look sharp. And her children had all kinds of temperament. I mean, she had thirteen kids! And I have to be honest with you. My father was the worst.
My father was in an accident, a very severe mining accident when he was fifteen years old. He was trapped inside, kind of a grinding funnel thing, and he was fortunate to survive. At that time, there was very little understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder. So he started self-medicating, which meant that by his early twenties, he was already an alcoholic. And, of course, things got worse with time. He used to yell at my grandmother, would become really aggressive, could be violent. But he was never violent with my grandmother, but he could become violent with his siblings.
I never, ever, ever heard my grandmother say that she hated or was ashamed of my father. I always heard her say that she loved my father and wished she could find a way to help him. Despite the fact that she was never able to do that, she could never help my father. She always found a way to forgive him. And let me tell you, that was hard to do because my father made some horrible mistakes in his life. But my grandmother always, always forgave her child. Always.
In a world where I was often told that I was so in so’s daughter, so I shouldn’t be valued, or I shouldn’t be respected because I was my father’s daughter, my grandmother never made me feel that way. She always made me feel good about myself. This was especially the case when my mother would tell me, “Ugh, you look like an Indian.” If you’ve heard my previous episodes, you know that for our culture, that used to be an insult. I don’t actually know how our culture treats that now. But back then, it was definitely an insult. My mother always made me feel bad about my cultural heritage—the fact that my skin is dark, that I have Native-American features. My grandmother would do the opposite. She would tell me these great stories about the mountains where she grew on. There are orchids running down the sides of the mountains, jaguars you can still hear, and deer running through the woods. I do remember being twelve years old and finally seeing those mountains. And let me tell you, it was just as magical as my Abuelita Ava told me they would be.
The other thing that was truly amazing about my grandmother Ava was how she could laugh with her children. It was amazing! Have you ever heard that laughter like cascading water? Her laughter was like that. It was full. It was unbridled. It was joyful. It was wonderful when she laughed with you. You never ever got the feeling that she was laughing at you. She was always celebrating something with you. It was a wonderful experience to be around her.
I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that my grandmother Ava was perfect. She could be a bit of a gossip. That was her thing. But she was my perfect grandmother. She was the most loving person. She was the most joyful person, and she always made me feel she was proud of me. I hope I made her proud.
Then there is my maternal grandmother, Jane. Boy, let me tell you. This woman was tiny. She was a four-foot-eight of terrifying lady! The scariest lady I’ve ever met in my entire freaking life. And I met a lot of scary women, oh, this lady was a terror! A terror! I mean, I once saw her get the belt and used it on my forty-year-old uncle. She was a disciplinarian and was hands-on. I have never met a stronger, more terrifying woman than this one. And yes, as I said, she was tiny. She was tiny. She was an amazing lady, an absolutely amazing lady.
One of the most important things I learned from my grandmother Jane was that this lady always could do the things that needed to be done first. She was a hardworking woman. Hardworking. She actually was part of helping the railroad system get laid in Mexico. So, she used to feed all of the workers as they were laying the tracks. I’ve heard some amazing stories from this lady. She lived through revolutions. She saw her mother commit suicide. She refused to take the poison from her mother, who was trying to give it to her. She then experienced the death of her father within a year of her mother’s. She did her best to bring up her siblings. One of her siblings had something wrong with him, and he died in her arms at the age of twelve, going on thirteen.
This woman and I have to call her woman at that age, went to town, negotiated her marriage with a thirty-eight-year-old man. As a part of her dowry, her brother was buried. Then she had to find homes for the rest of her younger siblings, two sisters. She had to, at that age, marry a thirty-eight-year-old man. She went on to become the mother of three children with this man. She had to bury all of those three children. They died in infancy. And then she had to bury her husband. I remember her telling me, “A woman worth her weight in salt can do anything she needs to do.”
I can’t tell you how many times I come back to the moment where she said those words to me. This tiny, tiny woman with completely white hair, with the perfect posture, with her eyes of steel looking at me. She has given me the strength to go through major surgeries, horrible bosses, IVF, the NICU. She has been my strength many, many times. When I think that I can’t do something because it’s too hard, I always remember that my grandmother Jane never backed away from doing a hard thing in her life.
So, after burying the first husband, my grandmother remarried, ended up having to bury the second husband, and had three children with that husband who survived to adulthood. Remarried a third time to my grandfather John who was a cavalryman in the Mexican army. He was very dashing, according to my grandmother. And she proceeded to give him five kids. They were together for a very long time. But then, she got sick of his philandering. He was a womanizer. He liked to party, and she got sick of it. She was ready to settle down, so she left him. She had eight kids, three teenagers, five young kids.
My grandmother Jane goes to this one town, buys a property, and builds her house. And you know how when we say somebody builds their home, they actually paid somebody else to build it? Not my grandmother. She hired a helper, and between the two of them, they created the adobe bricks, put up the walls, and built the house. It was my grandmother. She could always do the hard things.
I remember her telling me, “You can’t do the hard things in life? You’re not worth anything.”
Boy, let me tell you, my grandmother Jane branded me with that one. She was a tough, tough lady. None of her children were like her, not a single one. None of them had her fortitude, her vision, her strength. None of them did.
To the day she died, and by the way, she died not knowing her age. She used to say, “I think I’m seventy-four, but I could be seventy-eight. Maybe I’m eighty. I’m not sure.”
That was my grandmother, Jane. She was born at a time where records were literally not kept very well. In fact, she never learned to read or write. She would make her mark. She would make an “X.” That was her signature. But that didn’t keep her from bringing up eight of her children to adulthood, building her own home, and living all of her life independently.
The other thing about my grandmother Jane was that she always expected good things from children. Always! The woman never gave up on her kids. And as it turned out, this was a real challenge because her second husband, according to my grandmother, her second husband’s sister, had died possessed by the devil. I guess we could call schizophrenia the devil. Both of her daughters, by this husband, developed schizophrenia in their late teens, early twenties, and one of their daughters died as a result of really, really severe schizophrenia that hit her in her mid-twenties. My grandmother always sought a solution, a cure. Never ever gave up searching, never gave up attempting to help them.
Some of her children disappointed her in different ways. She made no bones about that. Let me tell you, that lady said what was on her mind. But no matter how disappointed she felt, once again, she didn’t give up. She didn’t give up on her children. She didn’t give up on her grandchildren. She always, always strove. She always sought to help her children, to encourage them to be better.
Of course, out of all the mothers that most impacted my life, my mother had the greatest impact on my mothering definition. No one defined me more than her as a person, as a mother, as a woman. So, that’s why she’s going to get her own episode!
But before we end today’s show, let’s remember to thank our sponsor, Hydrofeet, the insoles that massages your feet with every step. Check them out at Hydrofeet.com. Use the code OMB15OFF for an additional 15% off your purchase.
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