The month of March is designated at National Women's History Month. The theme this year is Women Weaving the Stories of Women's Lives. I've introduced you to the women of my novels over this month. Now, let me introduce you to some of the remarkable women from my family.
Top left is my maternal grandmother, Anna Kenney Hennessey--Grandma. She bore ten children, raised nine of those children into adulthood. She was the essence of the term 'homemaker.' She always had homemade soup on the stove and homemade bread on the table. She walked miles to church because the church was important to her. Family was her vocation and she lived it well until she passed at the age of 60.
Top right is a photo of my paternal grandfather, me, my sister--Peggy, and my paternal grandmother Georgie Margaret Hurst Rettstatt--Nana. My father was her only child and we were the only grandchildren. She doted on us. I remember shopping with her in Brownsville. It was never just about the shopping, but about going 'downtown' and visiting with women she knew who worked in various shops there. Shopping was a highly social event. She worked at different times, in a dairy store and, later, selling women's clothing in a store in Cleveland, Ohio where she and my grandfather relocated. She was short and round and soft and truly a Nana. She live to the age of 94.
And my sister, Peggy, three years my junior. I grew up with stories in my head about how I'd like to live, the things I'd like to do, the risks I'd like to take. She had the courage to do them. She's still braver than I when it comes to living life instead of imagining it.
Bottom left is my mother, Anna Katherine Hennessey "Kay" Rettstatt. When I look through family documents, I find my mother listed as Catherine, Kathryn A., and Anna Katherine. She used to love to tell stories about herself when she was growing up and then caution my sister and myself to NEVER do the same things she did. She was a risk-taker in her earlier years. From my childhood, I have fond memories of her joining us for a game of baseball in the back yard, playing with a hula hoop (which I still have on 8 mm film somewhere), and the way she sang country songs while she worked around the house. She had a great sense of humor. I always felt a bit of sadness for my mother, believing she wasn't completely happy and that, perhaps, had a dream she'd never pursued. Maybe that's why she had three different configurations to her name. And maybe that's her gift to me--to pursue my dreams.
The next two photos on the bottom are me--expressing my individuality and interest in music at age three and a more recent photo taken during a casual photo shoot for my website. I look at myself now and I reflect that self off those other women. I am who I am largely because of who they were. Nurturing, caring, faithful, hard working, loving and fun-loving. Perhaps with a shadow of mystery, a wee bit of sadness. Not the kind of sadness that makes us want to curl up in a ball. The kind of sadness that reflects a longing for something more, that drives us deeper into the search for our own truths.
There are so many women throughout history who have cleared a path and lighted the way for us. Some of them may still be with us, walking at our sides, covering our backs--bringing a smile from our memories. Take the time to thank them today.
Who are or have been the strong women in your life who have made you who you are today?