You wouldn't know it by looking at my life today, but I came from very little. It seems odd to even put it that way. I don't remember it like that, but looking back at old photos and talking to my parents, I know that there were months we didn't have enough money to buy groceries. It wasn't for lack of trying, however. We certainly didn't live beyond our means, and I know that they worked hard for every penny they earned.
My first memory is in the two bedroom single-wide mobile home I grew up in. It was on the side of Highway 112 through a middle of nowhere town, Oklahoma. I spent my days wandering around the wooded area, generally barefoot, or fishing with my Mom and Dad. I ate mostly fish and potatoes back then, but I was happy to do so (most of the time). Mom made a lot of our clothes, and they were always stylish! They did the best they could, and I think they did a fine job. That's just life sometimes. Going back a step beyond my time, I know that my Grandmother raised six children on her own after her husband suddenly died. They survived off whatever the soil could produce for them. They worked hard day in, and day out, and lived in a tiny two bedroom home that didn't even have indoor plumbing. I've heard her tell stories of how they bathed in the Mulberry River, and how scared she was to go to the outhouse at night all alone. She may think that those stories were lost on me, but they weren't. Taking a step beyond her time, I know that my Grandmother had a very similar upbringing. She picked cotton as a small child to help her family survive. We lost my Grandma to Alzheimer's not too long ago. She is greatly missed, and I will always remember her as the strongest woman I've ever known with a laugh that could carry for miles!
So when I say that we came from very little, that's merely a reference to money. When I think about the women that raised me, and the women that raised them, the word "strong" doesn't even come close. We often joke that there is a wildly magical gene that has been passed down along the DNA of the women in our family, and we are a family dominated by women. Two out of three of my children are girls, my mother had two daughters, my grandmother had five daughters, and it goes on and on in a similar fashion. Even on my Father's side, the women are dominant and just as wildly magical. I may have come from poverty, but that doesn't matter one bit. I am a descendent of powerful, hard-working, eternally stubborn and beautiful women.
So, as I look toward my college graduation on Saturday, I take a long somber look at my past. I am the first generation to add "college educated" to the repertoire. Though that accomplishment fills me with pride, I know that it pales in comparison to the accomplishments of all the women in my family. My road often took me to desolate places along the way, and there was a time that I worried I would never make anything of myself. I worried that I could never move beyond my mistakes, but I did. I am better because of the failures. Yes, I can credit myself for the hard work, for pushing through the tears and the sweat every step of the way to earn what I have. However, I know that nothing inside of me would have believed I could accomplish a single thing in this world, if it weren't for the women that cleared out the path ahead of me. Namely, my Mom. She blessed me with something very special and almost impossible to explain. A certain stubborn quality in my spirit that tells me anything is possible through hard work, a voice that I am never afraid to use, and the appreciation for each small thing I have (despite the may things I may not have).
The fact that I am graduating on Mother's Day weekend is almost serendipitous. It's a gentle nod from the universe to recognize what got me here. Here's to all the women in my life. ESPECIALLY YOU, Mom!
Let's put on our "Don't Bobber Me" shirts and hit the water. After all this hard work, we deserve some time off, right?